MacroScope

Brazil set to release long-overdue jobless rate just as election race heats up

Workers at a General Motors vehicle factory listen during a meeting to discuss their reactions to an announcement of plans to put some 1,000 workers on paid leave, in Sao Jose dos CamposBrazil’s unemployment rate has been a mystery for months: a strike in the country’s statistics agency, ironically enough, disrupted its main job market survey. The numbers will finally come out in a few hours, less than two weeks before a tight presidential election, and will help voters understand just how bad the recently-confirmed recession has been.

IBGE’s August unemployment report is important not only because it can tilt Brazil’s election balance in favor of current President Dilma Rousseff or her opponent Marina Silva, but also because it will determine the starting point of the labor market for a much-anticipated adjustment in Brazil’s economic policy. Some kind of shift is expected after the October election regardless of who wins, to keep debt under control and avoid losing the investment grade in coming years.

Looking at market estimates, one can expect anything, apparently. The range of forecasts in a Reuters poll was about three times as wide as in previous months, going from 4.5 percent, near a record low, to 5.8 percent, which would be the highest for August in three years. Either the recession has spared the job market so far, in good news for re-election candidate Rousseff, or it is now a reality for thousands of workers across Latin America’s largest economy.

The median forecast is 4.9 percent, exactly the same rate reported in April. But some signs suggest a small increase is the most likely scenario, which would reinforce the outlook of a gradual but steady deterioration of one of the world’s strongest labor markets just a few years ago.

Although the job market numbers have been held off since April, data on four of the six urban areas surveyed has been released by statistics agency IBGE, including Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the country’s largest cities.

High unemployment putting the ECB in isolation

 

Unemployment in the euro zone is stuck at 12 percent, an already high rate that masks eye-popping rates in many of its struggling member economies.

But in a press conference lasting one hour, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi mentioned the problem of high unemployment only a few times – satisfied with the central bank’s usual stance of imploring euro zone governments to implement structural reforms to their labour markets, on a case by case basis.

Draghi said:

 … although unemployment in the euro area is stabilising, it remains high, and the necessary balance sheet adjustments in the public and the private sector will continue to weigh on the pace of the economic recovery.   

Forecasters more accurate on U.S. payrolls: perhaps a good sign

Financial and economic forecasters have long been the punching bag of punters and traders for making spectacularly wrong calls. But a clutch of economists looked exceptionally good on Friday. Nine of them, or about 10 percent of the latest Reuters Polls sample on U.S. non-farm payrolls, got the net number of new jobs created in May exactly right at 175,000. And a whole lot of them came very close.

For a survey of companies conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that itself has a margin of error of plus or minus 100,000 this is no small achievement – or stroke of luck.

But it may also be a good sign that jobs growth is getting more steady, a much more stable target to try and pin down each month. The range of forecasts provided – from 125,000 jobs to 210,000 – was also the narrowest so far this year.

Although it seems routine, rising euro zone unemployment is still shocking

 

Another month, another rise in the number of jobless in the euro zone.

As expected, the unemployment rate hit a new record 12.2 percent in April, according to Eurostat on Friday, meaning some 19,375,000 euro zone citizens are out of work.

That’s more than the populations of Austria and Belgium combined and almost a quarter are aged under-25.

However, it’s worth remembering that not so long ago, hardly any economists expected to see unemployment climb to these levels.

Why rise in part-time employment does not explain U.S. jobless rate decline

The September unemployment rate was the lowest since December 2008 after surprisingly large back-to-back declines, sending economists back to the drawing board after big forecast misses. Some pointed to the large increase in involuntary part-time employment – erroneously so, according to an analysis from Ray Stone, economist and managing director at Stone & McCarthy.

The jobless rate fell to 7.8 percent last month from 8.1 percent in August.

After a quick, superficial look at the September household data, several commentators embraced the thesis that it was due to a 582,000 increase in Part-Time Employment for Economic Reasons. These are people who prefer full-time employment, but sadly had to settle for a part-time job. These 582,000 part-timers accounted for much of the overall 873,000 increase in September civilian employment.

This Part-Time for Economic Reasons statistic “was a Greenspan favorite, and certainly over longer periods of time such is a measure of labor distress,” Stone said. “But, the month-to-month wiggles in this series usually turn out to be noise. In September this metric rose to 8.613 million.”

Israel’s new-found jobless

Following on from Nigeria’s rebasing of its GDP numbers, giving it a huge growth boost on paper, it is Israel’s turn to tinker with the numbers.  This time, though, the end result was not positive.

The country’s Central Bureau of Statistics said on Monday that the first-quarter jobless rate was 6.7 percent. This a good 1.3 percentage points higher than the announced fourth-quarter figure.

It does not, however, signal a sudden cull of workers across Israel. It is the result, rather, of Israel adopting a new way of counting employment designed to bring it in line with the way leading Western economies do it. So the equivalent fourth-quarter number would have been 6. 8 percent, slightly higher.

Lower future jobless rate may give Fed little comfort

While Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was noting the recent strengthening of the U.S. job market is “out of sync” with an otherwise slow recovery on Monday, economists at the New York Fed drew attention to the jobless rate itself by saying that some big changes lie ahead for U.S. labor.

The jobless rate may fall faster than expected to less than 5 percent in five years’ time, the economists said in the first in a series of posts but that seems likely to be due more to the fact that fewer people will be in the labor market than to future job creation.

The post notes how, between 2008 and 2012, the employment to-population ratio had a different pattern than in previous economic cycles, with the unemployment rate falling “because the participation rates declined substantially”. Given the U.S. aging population, with 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 each day, this rate is likely to decline even more. The argument has interesting implications, including a potential decline in the usefulness of the jobless rate as a gauge of well-being.