Mid-Atlantic headwinds for U.S. employment

February 21, 2012

Ed Krudy contributed to this post

The Philadelphia Fed’s Mid-Atlantic manufacturing survey covers a pretty small chunk of an already shrunken U.S. factory sector. Still, analysts at Harris Bank have found that the survey’s employment component has been a pretty solid leading indicator of the monthly payrolls figures.

If the trend persists, then February’s report could be a bit of a letdown following a surprisingly robust gain of 243,000 jobs last month. The Philly Fed’s employment index dropped sharply in February to its lowest level since August.

According to Jack Ablin, Harris Bank’s chief investment officer:

For the last several months, the Business Outlook survey has been a keen predictor of the monthly change in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ non-farm payroll. The survey came close to nailing last month’s 243,000 gain, even though economists expected a 140,000 pickup on average. Should the survey’s predictive power continue, investors could be disappointed with February’s BLS report. The Philly Fed survey implies roughly 50,000 net new non-farm payroll jobs added in February. Positive yes, but it would be a big momentum killer. Stay tuned. The payroll report is not due out until March 9th.

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