Job creation in the U.S. cooled off a bit in August, falling below analyst expectations with only 156,000 new jobs added to the economy, according to job numbers released Friday.

Economists predicted that the labor market would add 180,000 new jobs in August, keeping on pace with a summer trend of relatively strong job reports but still falling short of April, June and July reports, which each saw job gains of 200,000 or more.

The news didn’t seem to shake markets too much as stocks opened higher with bond yields also trending slightly higer at 2.16% on the 10-Year Treasury.

So, why the employment dip last month?

August historically is a slow hiring month, with job numbers coming in below expectations in four of the last five years, according to the New York Times.

The report also points out that Hurricane Harvey, the massive Category 4 storm that battered parts of Texas and Louisiana, resulting in historic rainfall and devastating flooding, had no bearing on August’s employment situation. Still, we should brace ourselves to see the hurricane’s impact appear in next month’s job report with the initial influx of unemployment claims.

Despite last month’s employment slump, the unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 4.4 percent. After falling to a 16-year low of 4.3 percent, the unemployment rate has hovered at either 4.3 or 4.4 percent since April, according to the report. Industries that experienced job gains in August include manufacturing, construction, professional and technical services, mining and health care.

What remains concerning month to month is the stagnant condition of wage growth. Economists continue to bemoan the sluggish performance of wages, which may give the Federal Reserve pause before it decides to raise interest rates later this year. In August, average hourly earnings rose by 0.1 percent and 2.5 percent year-over-year.  One writer with Business Insider suggests the slowdown is because baby boomers are retiring and being replaced by younger workers making less money.

The Federal Reserve will have to keep this in mind before it meets later this month and considers raising interest rates. Inflation is a top concern for many of the central bank presidents and it’s possible they’ll hesitate to raise rates if they’re unsure consumers can bear it.

Markets tailspin after latest North Korea missile launch

Just when we thought things were simmering down with North Korea, rates fell and global markets recoiled earlier this week after North Korea launched a ballistic missile that flew over Japan before falling into the sea.

Although North Korea often conducts missile tests in the waters it shares with Japan, this is the first time the Communist country successfully fired a ballistic missile that traveled in Japanese airspace.

Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemned the launch, calling it an ‘unprecedented, serious and significant threat.’” In the U.S., President Donald Trump warned that “all options are on the table” when it comes to a possible U.S. response, while South Korea responded to the launch by conducting a bombing drill. The U.S. took part in a drill later in the week, flying its most advanced warplanes to South Korea as an apparent intimidation tactic.

View of the government building on the central square of Kim Il-Sung of Pyongyang – capital of the North Korea. Stock photo.

The avalanche of reaction sent U.S. stock futures tumbling, with the Dow Jones falling 147 points early Monday, while the Japanese yen, considered a go-to safe haven by panicky investors, moved higher.

Stock markets across Asia plunged with South Korea’s Kospi index dropping by more than 1 percent in early trade as Japan’s Nikkei index fell by 0.87 percent to a four-month low. Gold, another asset that rises in times of crisis and anxiety, increased Monday after an initial descent. In Europe, the FTSE 100 hit a 16-week low and the European Stoxx 600 fell to a six-month low. The pound fell against the euro.

Markets did relax as the week went on and are now at or near all time highs, perhaps since North Korea’s threats are nothing new. “The very simplistic and glib answer is we’re just getting used to this,” said Rob Carnell, head of research for Asia at Dutch bank ING. “We’re inured to North Korea’s saber-rattling.”

Trump’s tax reform still a mystery

Although still light on specifics, President Donald Trump traveled to Missouri this week to push for a bipartisan tax reform plan he purports will rejuvenate the American middle class.

On Wednesday, Trump reiterated plans to slash business and individual tax rates as a means of growing America’s gross domestic product and boosting job creation. He appealed to both congressional Republicans and Democrats to pass a tax reform plan that would increase wages and boost the amount of money going into workers’ pockets. He also called for a 15 percent corporate tax rate, 20 percent lower than the current rate of 35 percent.

Trump’s speech came a day after he and First Lady Melania Trump toured areas in Texas trounced by Hurricane Harvey’s historic rainfall and flooding. He made tax reform his primary agenda item earlier this year after Republicans failed to repeal and replace Obamacare — one of his key campaign promises.

The finer details of Trump’s plan are still unclear, although the White House has released an outline of priorities that include cutting corporate and individual income taxes, introducing a one-time tax on overseas profits generated by U.S. multinational corporations and offering tax breaks to companies that bring overseas cash back in-country.

On Thursday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the tax plan is “very detailed,” has already been presented to members of Congress and will be released to the public by the end of the month. We’ll need to keep watching to see if Trump’s plan bears any real fruit for U.S. businesses and wages.

Happy Labor Day

Finally, I want to wish you all a happy and relaxing (or adventurous) Labor Day weekend. Markets are closed and so are we so enjoy the downtime.

For thousands in Texas and Louisiana, this weekend means picking up the pieces after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. Please keep these families and individuals in your thoughts and prayers, particularly those in our Movement community who have been impacted by the storm. Also, consider supporting our disaster relief efforts. Movement is selling a $20 #heartsforhouston T-shirt to raise money for victims of flooding in Houston; 100 percent of the sales go directly to relief efforts.


About the Author:

Greg Richardson - EVP of Capital Markets

Greg Richardson is Movement's EVP of Capital Markets and a contributing author to the Movement Blog. His weekly market update is a must-read commentary on financial markets, the mortgage industry and interest rates. Greg is an industry veteran who knows how to read the financial tea leaves and make complex industry data easy for loan officers, real estate agents and homebuyers to understand.