Why Job Growth Is Likely to Slow by David Leonhardt
Why do economists expect growth to slow? The warm winter has probably pulled some spending forward into the last few months and will reduce spending in coming months, says Joshua Shapiro, an economist at MFR Inc. in New York. Rising oil prices also play a role. So does the continuing debt overhang, which makes a sustained recovery difficult.
None of these forecasts should be taken as gospel, of course. Maybe the gross domestic product numbers are wrong and will be revised upward in coming months, as government economists receive more data about the economy’s condition. Maybe the recent job gains will lead to a surge in confidence that lifts spending above expected levels.
But the most likely path includes a slowdown in job growth. It’s easy to forget that on a day with a jobs report as positive as this one.
My colleagues Binyamin Appelbaum and Annie Lowrey have each written recent articles with more details on the predicted slowdown.And:
On Friday, Macroeconomic Advisers, one of the most closely watched forecasting firms, reduced its estimate of economic growth in the current quarter to an annual rate of 1.8 percent, from 2 percent. And 1.8 percent growth does not generally lead to very strong job growth. In the fourth quarter of last year, by comparison, the economy grew 3 percent.
Sure enough, most forecasters do expect job growth to slow. Barclays Capital expects 200,000 jobs a month for the rest of the year. IHS Global Insight forecasts a slowdown to 180,000 jobs a month. Macroeconomic Advisers says it will slow to 140,000 jobs a month in the final three quarters of this year.
“We don’t get anything like the booming labor market with 300,000 jobs,” said Laurence H. Meyer, senior managing director of Macroeconomic Advisers and former Federal Reserve governor. “It would take much stronger growth than we have to do that.”
Calculated Risk is more upbeat:As a benchmark, the economy needs to create roughly 125,000 jobs a month to keep up with population growth.
There are reasons to expect better job growth overall this year compared to 2011. Last year was negatively impacted by the tsunami, bad weather, high oil prices and the debt ceiling debate. We can't predict the weather, and oil prices are high again - but hopefully there will be no natural disasters this year, and also no threats of defaulting on the debt.
Plus residential investment (new home sales and housing starts) has made the bottom turn, and even with a sluggish housing recovery, residential investment will add to economic growth in 2012. Also, the employment losses from state and local governments will probably end mid-year. As the BLS noted:
Government employment was essentially unchanged in January and February. In 2011, government lost an average of 22,000 jobs per month.
Employment growth in manufacturing will probably slow in 2012, but the overall picture is improving. Unfortunately the labor market is still very weak with 12.8 million Americans unemployed and 5.4 million unemployed for more than 6 months.The February job market: not bad by recent standards by Doug Henwood
Another positive report was the ISM services survey that indicated faster expansion in February. Negatives included a larger trade deficit, an increase in initial weekly unemployment claims, and - of course - falling house prices in January.
DeLong has spoken highly of Macroeconomic Advisors, but Calculated Risk's outlook is persuasive. Although those betting on the downside have usually been right these past few years.