Normally when enter a new month, investors look ahead to a number of data points that tell the tale of the consumer, domestic economy and more during the prior month. That will be the case as we march into November over the next few days, however with the Presidential Election less than a week away, greater importance will be placed on what economic indicators that are reported. Complicating matters this time around will be disruptions in collecting data due to Hurricane Sandy that battered the East Coast and causing more than $20 billion in damages.
This has raised some eyebrows and concerns as it relates to Friday’s October Employment Report. To say job creation is a key issue in the 2012 Presidential Election is a vast understatement, but we also know that in normal times there are issues with government statistics. Relying solely on single data point streams – like viewing domestic job creation only through the lens of the monthly employment report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics – rarely paints a full or truly representative picture of what is actually happening in the economy.
That is why I recommend looking at a number of data points when it comes to the economy, industries and so on. Ahead of Friday’s October Employment Report, we’ll get ADP’s take on job creation in October as well as the monthly job cuts report issued by Challenger Gray & Christmas.
Likely lost in the Hurricane Sandy related headlines was the October reading of Intuit’s Small Revenue and Employment Index. For those that never heard of this report, it measures the change in employment at firms with fewer than 20 employees and is derived using employment data for approximately 170,000 small business employers, a subset of the more than 1 million businesses using Intuit Payroll.
So what did Intuit find? Small business job creation once again fell in October, marking the fifth consecutive month of month over month declines in Intuit’s Small Business Employment Index. Also falling in October according to Intuit was the number of hours worked. While that metric has been on a steady decline over the last year, the pace of that decline has picked up in recent months.
When the lifeblood of job creation – small businesses – is on the wane, that does not bode well for overall job creation. Making matters worse, nearly 60% of all S&P 500 companies that have reported their 3Q 2012 earnings results missed revenues, likely means job cuts will be back on the table. Already, we’ve heard of job cuts from Colgate-Palmolive, Dupont, Oshkosh Corp., Dow Chemical, and Advanced Micro Devices as well as facility closures from Navistar International, Diamond Foods, Build-A-Bear, Sears, iRobot, Georgia Pacific and others. Keep in mind those announcements were made in last 30 days and prospects for more are high, especially if we fall into the “fiscal cliff.” Odds are this means the Challenger Gray Job Cuts report will show more than a modest pick up when the October findings are published on Thursday (November 1).
I’ll continue to parse the job creation data as we get it over the next few days, but so far it does not look favorable for the 125,000 non-farm payroll jobs that Wall Street expects for October. That 125,000 figure compares to the 114,000 non-farm jobs that were created in September.