April 6 (Reuters) – This time around it looks that when the
rest of the world comes down with a cold, the United States
starts sneezing, too.
Arguments for American exceptionalism, or even that
much-vaunted but seldom seen phenomenon known as “de-coupling,”
were undermined on Friday when U.S. payrolls data disappointed
For investors, this is somewhat dispiriting, as many were
hoping to ride out the effects of a sharp European slowdown and
weakness in emerging markets by investing in U.S. shares, which
had a great first quarter, driven by strong signs out of
manufacturing and a brightening jobs picture.
Non-farm payrolls increased by 120,000 in March, a territory
barely in squinting distance from the 203,000 consensus of
economists’ estimates. The unemployment rate fell to 8.2
percent, but as a drop of 31,000 jobs in a survey of households
and participation data shows, this was driven entirely by people
getting out of the workforce.
Perhaps most disturbing of all was the extent to which the
poor showing was driven by weakness in manufacturing employment,
which after all is ultimately the U.S.’s path to sustainable
prosperity. Weekly hours worked in manufacturing actually
declined, by 0.3 hours to 40.7, in a sign that just maybe the
weakness being seen elsewhere in the globe is hitting home in
the United States.