CNBC’s Squawk Box expressed astonishment on Friday with September’s jobs report, which came less than halfway to meeting projections.
The moment began with Steve Liesman, who looked down at the report and said, “194,” reflecting the 194,000 new jobs reported over the last month. “Whoa!” Becky Quick responded.
“I see 194,000? That is real low,” Liesman said. “Let me go to the jobless rate — wow, big decline, 4.8 percent, 5.1 was expected. Let me … see if I can find where the jobs were, and I think in this case, where the jobs weren’t.”
The Dow Jones estimate projected 500,000 new jobs would emerge in September, more than 300,000 more than Friday’s number released by the Labor Department. Private payrolls increased by 317,000, but government payrolls declined 123,000.
The so-called jobless rate declined, as Liesman noted, though it excludes Americans who hold part-time jobs but cannot find full-time work, as well as “discouraged workers” who have quit looking for work. The number was 8.5 percent with those groups included, a pandemic-low.
Economists attributed the lack of hiring at least partially to sustained Covid-19 mania, particularly in education, where employment declined by 144,000 among local governments and 17,000 among state governments. “The shortfall may be related to recent reports of difficulty in hiring for certain positions such as bus drivers, food service workers, or substitute teachers, often lower-wage and part-time positions filled by many older workers who may be more concerned about infection,” the Economic Policy Institute’s Elise Gould noted on Twitter.
“It was definitely a weaker number than expected,” Liesman added. “Nothing really going on in leisure and hospitality. Declines in nursing. Where else do we have any declines? Not really any big declines here, just not, Becky, the numbers that you need to put people back to work right now. September now coming in weaker than August … and I think that’s the big story here.”
It’s the second consecutive month the network has expressed shock at employment reports falling short of expectations. The economy added 235,000 jobs in August, a third of the anticipated 720,000, leading Liesman to observe at the time the numbers represented a “big miss” for forecasters.
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