While few economists disagree, the most important monthly economic statistic released each month for investment strategists is the “Jobs Report”, which is released the first Friday of each month. Today, the Labor Department announced the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.7%. The good news is that we only lost 36 thousand jobs last month, compared with a loss of 26 thousand in January. The reason this is good is because that we were expecting a loss of 50 thousand jobs, primarily due to the terrible weather last month. Clearly, there had to be some impact but it is not measurable. As a result of this pleasant surprise, futures jumped from 29 to 65 immediately, indicating a strong open for the market today.
The sad news is that the rate of under-employment increased from 16.7% to 16.8%. If we stopped losing jobs, the rate stays like that. To restore full employment within five years, we need to see over 200 thousand job created each month. It will be a long, hard slog, and this weather delay didn’t help.