November Jobs Report: Lowest Unemployment Rate Since August 2007

This morning's employment report for November showed a 178K increase in total nonfarm payrolls along with a 17K upward revision for September and a 2K downward revision for October (a net revision gain of 15K). The unemployment rate dropped from 4.9% to 4.6%, the lowest rate since August 2007. The Investing.com consensus was for 175K new jobs and the unemployment rate to remain unchanged at 4.9%.

Here are two excerpts from the Employment Situation Summary released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

The unemployment rate declined to 4.6 percent in November, and total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 178,000, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment gains occurred in professional and business services and in health care....

In November, the unemployment rate decreased by 0.3 percentage point to 4.6 percent, and the number of unemployed persons declined by 387,000 to 7.4 million. Both measures had shown little movement, on net, from August 2015 through October 2016....

Here is a snapshot of the monthly percent change in Nonfarm Employment since 2000. We've added a 12-month moving average to highlight the long-term trend.

PAYEMS Monthly Change

The unemployment peak for the current cycle was 10.0% in October 2009. The chart here shows the pattern of unemployment, recessions and the S&P Composite since 1948. Unemployment is usually a lagging indicator that moves inversely with equity prices (top series in the chart). Note the increasing peaks in unemployment in 1971, 1975 and 1982. The mirror relationship appears to be repeating itself with the most recent and previous bear markets.

Unemployment and the Market

Now Let's take a look at the unemployment rate as a recession indicator, or more specifically the cyclical troughs in the UR as a recession indicator. The next chart features a 12-month moving average of the UR with the troughs highlighted. As the inset table shows, the correlation between the MA troughs and recession starts is remarkably close. Note that technically the MA is still trending downward in the latest report, but we have to calculate it to two decimal places to see the MoM change: 4.92% to 4.89%.

Unemployment and Recessions

We've added another chart to illustrate the reality of the unemployment rate - the unemployment rate divided by the labor force participation rate.

The next chart shows the unemployment rate for the civilian population unemployed 27 weeks and over. This rate has fallen significantly since its 4.4% all-time peak in April 2010. It is now at 1.2%, unchanged from the previous month.

Unemployed 27+ Weeks