Oct. 11--The U.S. economy added a modest 136,000 jobs in September, a gain that managed to help lower the unemployment rate to a new five-decade low of 3.5 percent.
But, there was something else in the data: Excluding government, business hiring in the past three months has slowed to an average of 119,000 a month, the weakest showing in seven years.
A group of business and academic leaders explain what it means:
Question: Is the jobs report a sign a recession is near?
Norm Miller, University of San Diego
NO: Job growth continues to slow but we are not yet near a recession. One reason for job growth slowing is a mismatch of domestic existing skills with available jobs. Another is simply that we are near full employment. The global slowdown is having some impact, along with unsuccessful trade war negotiations. The Fed is not to blame. We may still see a recession in a year or so, but there is still positive momentum in our economy.
Lynn Reaser, Point Loma Nazarene University
NO: While recession risk has increased, the latest jobs report is not a red flag. Manufacturers are struggling, but other firms are still expanding. Out of nearly 260 private industries, a majority were still adding jobs rather than cutting back in September. Companies have also not reduced employees' hours. Some of the slower job growth may reflect the severe difficulties firms are facing in filling open positions. With consumers holding the economy up, watch for any cracks in their confidence.
Jamie Moraga, IntelliSolutions
NO: Last month, the U.S. added more jobs to the economy and the unemployment rate hit a 50-year low. Consumer spending continued to remain optimistic, especially with home and auto sales. The Fed is anticipated to make another interest rate cut at the end of the month. The economy could be showing some signs of slowing due to continued global uncertainty and the threat of ongoing trade wars, but it remains resilient for now.
Bob Rauch, R.A. Rauch & Associates
NO: Consumer confidence remains strong, employment and wages are up and while there are trade war concerns, this economy would need a confluence of negative events to fall into recession. Low oil prices, coupled with low interest rates and strong consumer spending, bodes well. The next 12 months are solid albeit with an economy that is slowing. An interim agreement on trade will remove uncertainty and boost the economy with GDP up 2.2 percent in 2020.
Chris Van Gorder, Scripps Health
NO: The decline is encouraging, and while I don't think this single indicator shows a recession is near, I've been predicting a recession by 2020/2021 for some time now. I do believe that businesses are slowing hiring and capital spending as a result of concerns about a broad slowdown in global economies, particularly Europe and China. Tariff wars, impeachment talk and candidate proposals that would not be positive for businesses aren't helping, either.
Austin Neudecker, Rev
NO: Not quite there yet. When unemployment falls below 4 percent, the economic cycle is already mature, the labor market tight, and inflation becomes concerning. The Fed usually begins hiking interest rates, eventually causing the economy to falter. Interest rates have remained at record lows for record length of time artificially boosting the U.S. economy, financial markets, and amplifying job growth. With record debt burdens, interest rates do not have to rise much to cause another recession.
Gary London, London Moeder Advisors
NO: Last month the U.S. added more jobs to the economy and the unemployment rate hit a 50-year low. Consumer spending continued to remain optimistic, especially with home and auto sales. The Fed is anticipated to make another interest rate cut at the end of the month. The economy could be showing some signs of slowing due to continued global uncertainty and the threat of ongoing trade wars, but it remains resilient for now.
James Hamilton, UC San Diego
NO: The lowest unemployment rate in half a century is not a recession, it is cause to celebrate. Because the pool of unemployed is so low, we're not going to see as many new people added to payrolls each month. The leading indicator to watch for the start of a recession is new claims for unemployment insurance. That is also near all time lows. The U.S. is not in a recession.
David Ely, San Diego State University
NO: While GDP and employment growth have slowed, the economy does not seem to be on the edge of a recession. Jobs are still being created. The number of involuntary part-time workers, the average workweek, hourly earnings, and other indicators suggest that the labor market is still reasonably healthy. The probability of a downturn has increased, but based on current data, the U.S. will likely avoid a recession over the next twelve months.
Michele Vives, Douglas Wilson Companies
NO: Much of this slowdown has been reported to be caused by a limited number of available employees. With the unemployment rate being on average 3.5 percent to 3.7 percent, it's likely the labor market that is slowing as it's running out of skilled labor. Also, with rising concerns about tariffs, it's no surprise that employers are concerned about the direction of the economy, therefore slowing down the development of new positions.
Phil Blair, Manpower
NO: Recession is a very strong word. One thinks of the economy falling off a cliff. Yes will are getting lots of mixed messages about consumer confidence, interest rates, home sales and lots of other measures of the economy. But to me hiring is the major barometer to watch. Yes the September hiring was soft at 136,000 jobs but July and August were at the same time adjusted up by 45,000 jobs and this is on top of the millions of American jobs added over the last ten years. Our national unemployment rate fell to a new low not seen since 1969.
Alan Gin, University of San Diego
NO: But it is a sign that the economy is slowing. The labor market is still solid with a low unemployment rate. So it is unlikely that the economy would swing from that to a full-blown recession. But there are signs of weakness beyond the slow job growth. These include a decline in wages, weakness in manufacturing, and the impacts of the continued trade war with China. The good news is that this gives the Federal Reserve some room to further cut interest rates.
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