(Bloomberg) — To say the October payrolls report will be closely watched across the world would be an understatement. It’ll be monumental.
After Friday’s release, Federal Reserve policy makers will have only one more jobs report in hand — the November data — before their final meeting of the year on Dec. 15-16. That’s when they may decide on the first interest-rate hike in almost a decade. A couple soft payrolls performances could prompt the Fed to keep the rate near zero, where it’s been since 2008.
“Their case for whether or not to go in December could be made or lost with the October employment report,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc.
America’s jobs engine sputtered in August and September amid financial-market turmoil and concern that a hard landing in China could spill over into emerging economies. The key question is: Was that weakness in hiring temporary, or the start of a downshift? Last month’s report may hold the answer.
Here’s what to look for when the Labor Department’s figures are released on Friday at 8:30 a.m. in Washington:
Employers probably added about 180,000 workers in October, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists. With September’s 142,000 gain and August’s 136,000 increase, the average for those two months was only 139,000. In the first half of this year, the average was 213,000. It was 260,000 for all of 2014, which was the best year for hiring since 1999.
So revisions matter, more than ever, and many economists expect to find better readings on the prior two months.
“The book is far from closed on the last few months,”‘ said Conrad DeQuadros, senior economist at RDQ Economics. “It’s not clear that the labor market actually did slow down.”
One of the Fed’s preconditions for raising rates is “some further improvement” in the labor market. Fed officials said in October that they’d consider a rate increase at their next gathering, and Fed Chair Janet Yellen this week reinforced the view by saying December was a “live possibility.”