El-Erian, Gross: Job Growth ‘Frustratingly Gradual’

Bond bosses don’t think much of that latest labor report

Mohamed El-Erian and Bill Gross, the conjoined twins of the bond world, wasted little time in commenting on the December jobs report. The co-CIOs of PIMCO, which runs the world’s largest bond fund, didn’t think much of the report, describing it as “frustrating” and predicting more volatility as the Federal Reserve continues to focus on reducing unemployment numbers.

Bill Gross, co-CIO, PIMCO (Photo: AP)Gross (left) told Bloomberg TV on Friday morning that more volatility will come as a result of the central bank’s announcement on Dec. 12 that it will hold borrowing costs low “at least as long” as the unemployment rate remains above 6.5% and inflation projections are for no more than 2.5%.

El-Erian, writing for The Huffington Post, said that while the labor market “continues to heal,” it is still “frustratingly gradual.”

“The challenge now is to consolidate the improvement,” he wrote. “For that, politicians need to overcome self-made problems; also, and critically, they need to stop creating new ones.”

Employers added 155,000 new hires in December, following a revised 161,000 advance in November that was more than initially estimated, according to Labor Department figures. The unemployment rate remained at 7.8%, its lowest point since 2008.

Mohamed El-Erian, CEO, PIMCO (Photo: AP)"[G]iven the extent of damage created by the global financial crisis and the great recession, the American economy is yet to attain ‘escape velocity,’" El-Erian (right) said. "A lot more improvement is needed, and urgently so.”

He added that youth unemployment is worrisome, “especially if you are a parent of a teenager,” while noting just under a quarter of 16- to 19-year-olds in the labor force (23.6% to be exact) are jobless.

“Fortunately, large companies are in a very good position to hire more and to accelerate the country's economic healing,” he wrote. “Their balance sheets are strong, and they hold lots of cash. As this involves making long-term commitments—particularly when it comes to investments in new plant and certain equipment—it will not be material unless Congress gets its act together.”

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