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Jobs report: Jobs market still hot. Can we avoid a recession?



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A U.S. jobs market that ran red-hot all through 2022 saved that streak alive in December as unemployment notched down, matching a 53-year low as employers added 223,000 new positions. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret Information)

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SALT LAKE CITY — A U.S. jobs market that ran red-hot all through 2022 saved that streak alive in December as unemployment notched down, matching a 53-year low as employers added 223,000 new positions, in accordance with a report launched Friday by the Labor Division.

Whereas the general jobs market stays vibrant, and an excessive amount of so within the eyes of the Federal Reserve amid its efforts to quell inflation, a few of the information reveals indicators of easing that would support the Fed’s struggle towards file worth will increase.

Based on the report, final month’s jobs acquire, whereas sturdy, was the smallest in two years, and prolonged an total pattern within the fee ticking down. The typical hourly pay progress additionally eased in December, right down to its slowest tempo in 16 months.

That slowdown may cut back strain on employers to boost costs to offset their greater labor prices, in accordance with the Related Press. And that dynamic might be welcomed by the Fed following a 12 months that noticed the financial physique enact seven rate of interest hikes.

Common hourly wage progress was up 4.6% in December from 12 months earlier, in contrast with a 4.8% year-over-year improve in November and a latest peak of 5.6% in March.

“We have clearly been in a scenario over the previous few months the place employment progress has been holding up surprisingly effectively and is slowing very regularly,” Andrew Hunter, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, instructed The Wall Avenue Journal. “There are beginning to be just a few indicators that we’re perhaps beginning to see a bit extra of a pointy deterioration.”

Scorching labor market has anchored pesky inflation

U.S. inflation in January 2022 got here in at 7.5% and climbed steadily till hitting a 40-year excessive of 9.1% in July. Since then, the speed has ticked down with the newest report from the U.S. Labor Division pegging November inflation at 7.1%. The U.S. Federal Reserve has pitched a yearlong battle towards the elevated costs of products and companies, instituting essentially the most aggressive collection of fee hikes in many years in an try to chill off the red-hot economic system.

However shopper spending has remained sturdy and the U.S. labor market has continued to run purple scorching, with unfilled jobs far outnumbering the variety of accessible employees to fill them.

In a December interview, Phil Dean, public finance senior analysis fellow on the College of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Coverage Institute, stated excessive inflation by itself is often sufficient to dampen rampant spending, however an unprecedented degree of money flowed into the pockets of customers within the type of pandemic stimulus funding and that, together with different elements, continued to buoy spending all through 2022, even within the face of record-high costs.

“Inflation and rising rates of interest have created some challenges within the present economic system,” Dean stated. “However alongside that, shopper spending continues to be very robust in Utah and throughout the U.S. In the course of the pandemic, fiscal stimulus checks flowed to customers and lots of took benefit of low rates of interest that facilitated refinancing of mortgages that freed up much more cash. And, if you happen to take a look at customers total proper now, they nonetheless have some huge cash to spend.”

A “Now hiring!” sign is pictured on the door to Michaels in Salt Lake City on Friday.
A “Now hiring!” signal is pictured on the door to Michaels in Salt Lake Metropolis on Friday. (Photograph: Kristin Murphy, Deseret Information)

Is a recession nonetheless inevitable?

Rumors and prognostications about an financial recession have been swirling for months however the identical dissonant elements that made the 2022 economic system so troublesome to foretell, and management, will proceed into 2023.

However the December jobs information may present some glimmer that the Fed’s hoped-for “tender touchdown,” aka, a gradual slowdown of the economic system versus a recessionary crash, continues to be a viable consequence.

“Traditionally, when you’ve got excessive inflation, and the Fed is jacking up rates of interest to quell inflation, that leads to a downturn or recession,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, instructed CNBC in a year-end report. “That invariably occurs — the traditional overheating situation that results in a recession. We have seen this story earlier than. When inflation picks up and the Fed responds by pushing up rates of interest, the economic system in the end caves beneath the load of upper rates of interest.”

Zandi, nevertheless, is within the minority of economists who imagine the Federal Reserve can keep away from a recession by elevating charges simply lengthy sufficient to keep away from squashing progress. However he stated expectations are excessive that the economic system will swoon.

“Often recessions sneak up on us. CEOs by no means speak about recessions,” Zandi stated. “Now it appears CEOs are falling over themselves to say we’re falling right into a recession. … Each individual on TV says recession. Each economist says recession. I’ve by no means seen something prefer it.”

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