Economists will be looking for this year’s Jekyll-and-Hyde labor market to show its true face Friday when the government releases the September jobs report.
They may not get their wish.
The job market is being buffeted by so many crosscurrents — including a shrinking pool of unemployed workers, a sluggish economy, uncertainty over the presidential election and even job-counting challenges – that the picture may remain fuzzy for at least several more months.
“It’s a very ugly stew,” says economist Diane Swonk, head of DS Economics.
Private payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that businesses added a disappointing 154,000 jobs last month, below the 165,000 economists expected. ADP attempts to foreshadow the Labor Department’s private-sector total but often differs from it significantly.
Economists estimate Labor will report a total 174,000 job gains in the public and private sectors. That would exceed the 151,000 recorded in August but fall short of the monthly average of 181,000 this year and 229,000 in 2015.
Many economists believe payroll growth is bound to slow now that the 4.9% jobless rate is supplying employers with a smaller pool of available workers. Swonk believes that’s a partial factor but doesn’t tell the whole story, noting that previously discouraged workers who are resuming their job hunts are still providing a surplus stock of applicants.