Strong October Jobs Data Stun Gold Price. For How Long?

November 5, 2019

The recent employment report points to the continuing strength of the U.S. labor market. The earlier months’ upward revisions paint the same picture. Yet the unemployment rate ticked higher – is a recession looming, or not? And what does it all mean for gold?

October Payrolls Better Than Expected, But Unemployment Rate Edges Up

The U.S. created 128,000 jobs in October, following an increase of 219,000 in September (after an upward revision). The nonfarm payrolls came above expectations. The analysts forecasted only 75,000 new jobs, as they thought that the strike at General Motors would be more detrimental for the employment numbers. The gains were widespread, but with a leading role of leisure and hospitality (+61,000), and education and health services (+39,000). Manufacturing again cut jobs, which is another sign of the industrial slowdown. This time the reduction was really deep, as 36,000 people lost jobs in manufacturing. However, the big cut was in part caused by the strike in the General Motors.

The surprisingly decent headline number was accompanied by upward revisions in September and August. Counting these, employment gains in these two months combined were 95,000 higher than previously reported. That’s a lot! Consequently, the job gains have averaged 176,000 per month over the last three months, and 167,000 so far this year – very respectable but still significantly below the average monthly gain of 223,000 in 2018.

Although the U.S. economy is still creating jobs at a reasonable pace, the unemployment rate ticked up, from 3.5 to 3.6 percent, as the chart below shows. It is still near the 50-year low, but if it rises again soon, we could start to worry.

Chart 1: U.S. nonfarm payrolls (red bars, left axis, change in thousands of persons) and the unemployment rate (green line, right axis, %) from October 2014 to October 2019.

Last but not least, the average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls have increased 3.0 percent over the last twelve months, following 2.9-percent rise in September. The acceleration in the wage inflation should please the Fed, but it should not significantly impact its stance. 

Hence, the October jobs report is positive for the U.S. economic outlook. The labor market shows resilience in general, with above-consensus hiring and upward revisions to prior months. The downturn in manufacturing sector has not yet caused broader issues in the labor market. The overall economy is, thus, still doing relatively well and the U.S. labor market is likely to further contribute to the longest expansion on record, at least for a certain time. This is bad news for gold prices.

We hope you enjoyed reading the above free analysis, and we encourage you to read today’s Gold Fundamentals Monitor – this analysis’ full version. It covers the implications of the recent trends in the U.S. labor market for the Fed’s policy and gold prices. Don’t miss the discussion whether the rise in the unemployment rate signals economic problems ahead, including the analysis of the Sahm’s Indicator, and the detailed view of the relationship between the nonfarm payrolls and gold prices. Well worth the read and making use of. Such details literally worth their weight in gold.

The unemployment rate increased in October. Is it a worrying sign for the U.S. economy? Not really. First, the rise in the unemployment rate in October was accompanied by the increase in the participation rate, from 63.2 to 63.3 percent, as one can see in the chart below. It means that more people – about additional 325,000 previously discouraged individuals – entered the labor market to find a job, pushing the unemployment rate higher. 

Chart 2: US labor force participation rate from October 2014 to October 2019

Second, the Sahm’s indicator tells us not to worry. What is the Sahm’s index anyway? It’s the indicator based on the unemployment rate. The raw unemployment rate is powerful recessionary indicator, but it’s not easy to determine it in real time. The Sahm’s index is a new tool to solve this problem. As I explained in the August edition of the Gold Market Overview, the economy is thought to be headed for recession, when the three-month average unemployment rate is at least 50 basis points above its minimum from the previous twelve months.

So, let’s take a look at the chart below. The three-month average unemployment rate is just 0.1 percentage point above its minimum of the past twelve months. It implies that the labor market remains healthy and does not signal an imminent recession, despite the recent rise in the unemployment rate. The Sahm’s indicator stays at a very low level, and it is not rising toward the recessionary threshold, at least not yet.

Chart 3: Sahm’s Index (the difference between the three-month average of unemployment rate and the minimum from the previous twelve months) from January 1970 to October 2019.

Implications for Gold

What does it all mean for the gold market? Well, strong U.S. labor market does not help gold prices to go up. The Fed officials welcomed the October job report. Richard Clarida, the Fed Vice Chair, said on Friday that he is “very happy” with the stance of monetary policy, suggesting no more interest rate cuts for a moment. The decent job creation will support the current record-long expansion, preventing the yellow metal from rallying.

However, investors should be aware that there is no clear long-term relationship between the gold price and job gains (see the chart below). I mean that the correlation between the monthly changes in the nonfarm payrolls and the monthly averages of gold prices is very low. In the past, the relationship was stronger. For example, the correlation was -0.34 in 2017. But in 2019, it amounts to a mere 0.06.  

Chart 4: Total nonfarm payrolls (blue line, left axis, monthly change in thousands of persons) and the price of gold (yellow line, right axis, London P.M. fixing) from October 2014 to October 2019

What explains the differences? Blame the Fed. You see, sometimes the developments in the labor market are key inputs in the Fed’s reaction function. Then, the relationship between the nonfarm payrolls and gold, especially in the short-term, may be stronger. But sometimes, such as today, inflation become more important. Or political pressure. Or trade wars and general uncertainty. Or the yield curve. In such periods, the link between the job gains and gold prices will be weaker.  

So, although currently the relationship is relatively weak now, it does not have to stay so in the future. Actually, when labor market conditions deteriorate and the unemployment rate rises, gold could react more intensively to the Employment Situation Report.

By the way, the shifting correlations is why the gold market is very challenging for beginners and why investors should always analyze the broader macroeconomic context instead of focusing on simple and fragmented relationships. This is why it’s worth reading the Gold Fundamentals Monitor, which presents you with all the nuances of the gold fundamental outlook.

If you enjoyed the above analysis, we invite you to check out our other services. We provide daily Gold & Silver Trading Alerts with clear buy and sell signals. If you’re not ready to subscribe yet and are not on our gold mailing list yet, we urge you to sign up. It’s free and if you don’t like it, you can easily unsubscribe. Sign up today!

Disclaimer: Please note that the aim of the above analysis is to discuss the likely long-term impact of the featured phenomenon on the price of gold and this analysis does not indicate (nor does it aim to do so) whether gold is likely to move higher or lower in the short- or medium term. In order to determine the latter, many additional factors need to be considered (i.e. sentiment, chart patterns, cycles, indicators, ratios, self-similar patterns and more) and we are taking them into account (and discussing the short- and medium-term outlook) in our trading alerts.

Arkadiusz Sieron, PhD
Sunshine Profits – Effective Investments through Diligence and Care

* * * * *

All essays, research and information found above represent analyses and opinions of Przemyslaw Radomski, CFA and Sunshine Profits' associates only. As such, it may prove wrong and be a subject to change without notice. Opinions and analyses were based on data available to authors of respective essays at the time of writing. Although the information provided above is based on careful research and sources that are believed to be accurate, Przemyslaw Radomski, CFA and his associates do not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the data or information reported. The opinions published above are neither an offer nor a recommendation to purchase or sell any securities. Mr. Radomski is not a Registered Securities Advisor. By reading Przemyslaw Radomski's, CFA reports you fully agree that he will not be held responsible or liable for any decisions you make regarding any information provided in these reports. Investing, trading and speculation in any financial markets may involve high risk of loss. Przemyslaw Radomski, CFA, Sunshine Profits' employees and affiliates as well as members of their families may have a short or long position in any securities, including those mentioned in any of the reports or essays, and may make additional purchases and/or sales of those securities without notice.

*********

Arkadiusz Sieroń is the author of Sunshine Profits’ monthly gold Market Overview report, in which he keeps subscribers up-to-date regarding key fundamental developments affecting the gold market and helps them prepare for the major changes. Arkadiusz is a certified Investment Adviser, a long-time precious metals market enthusiast and a Ph.D. candidate. He is also a Laureate of the 6th International Vernon Smith Prize.  You can reach Arkadiusz at Sunshine Profits’ contact page.

If you enjoy the above analysis, please also check out other services dedicated to the precious metals investors. We invite you to join Sunshine Profits’ free gold newsletter today – you’ll also gain 7-day trial of our premium Gold & Silver Trading Alerts and much more. It’s free and if you don’t like it, you can easily unsubscribe.

78 percent of the yearly gold supply--is made into jewelry.

Gold Eagle twitter                Like Gold Eagle on Facebook