Investing.com – The December employment report showed renewed strength in the U.S. labor market, supporting the Federal Reserve’s notion that rate hikes could still be needed this year.
The economy created 312,000 new jobs at the end of 2018, with the majority – 301,000 – occurring in the private sector, while wage inflation ticked higher, supporting Fed concerns about prices creeping higher on the back of a tight labor market.
Stocks zig-zagged after the report, with S&P 500 futures up just a tad from their pre-report gains after the dust settled. The 10-year Treasury yield added to gains after the numbers were released.
Investors will now be weighing the strong payrolls gains, which counter concerns about a significant slowdown, with wage inflation ticking higher, underlining the case for further rate hikes 2019.
The only negative in the report was an unexpected increase in the unemployment rate to 3.9%. But the downbeat first impression can be explained by the increase in the participation rate, which hit its highest level since 2014. With more people actively looking for work in a strong economy, the jobless rate ticked higher.
Allianz chief economic adviser Mohamed El-Erian classified the report as “A Fed ‘told you so’”.
“With the exception of higher labor participation which supports the notion of some remaining slack in the labor market, this strong December jobs report will be seen in my opinion by central bankers as supporting more rate hikes and no tweaks to the balance sheet policy,” he said.
The Fed predicted two further rate increases during 2019 when it hiked by a quarter point at its last policy meeting in December.
Markets have remained skeptical, going so far as to suggest that the U.S. central bank would need to cut rates in the face of a global slowdown reinforced by recent weak data from China and the uncertainty surrounding the U.S.-Sino trade dispute.
In a notable comparison, fed fund futures had priced in the possibility of a rate cut in June of this year at around 18%, with those odds dropping to just 6% following the release. And a slight chance of a rate hike in June reappeared after the jobs numbers were released.