Hazy Jobs Report No Help to Fed

The August jobs report released this morning was one of the most hotly anticipated all year.

That’s because the scores of analysts, economists, reporters and pundits whose own jobs involve opining on jobs reports want to devour it, issue their opinions quickly—and skip town for the long weekend.

But investors want to read these tea leaves for a less frivolous reason: the report holds the last jobs number the Fed will see before deciding whether or not to hike short-term interest rates this month.

So what did the jobs number portend?

Sadly, not much. Like an expressionist painting, this job report’s beauty, or lack there of, lies in the eye of the beholder.

To some it looks kind of ugly: the 155,000 jobs created in August were lower than expected and well below the average rate of around 200,000 a month over the past year. But that’s beautiful for those wishing against higher interest rates.

To some it’s pretty, as in pretty good: 155,000 jobs created in a recovery this old is still fairly healthy – especially when the U.S. is (officially, statistically) near full employment. When the unemployment rate is low, enormous job growth is harder to achieve. The Fed isn’t expecting anything like the 250,000 monthly average in the 1992 to 2000 expansion.

It’s safe to say that if Fed leaders are hell-bent on raising rates, the August number won’t automatically deter them. Other than the calendar, what might tilt the balance against higher rates are some other recent reports that indicate the economy isn’t exactly at a full boil. Manufacturing activity, auto sales and construction spending: all weak.

And as I said on Wednesday, the supposedly non-political Fed may not want to raise rates for political reasons.

So the Fed could go either way. If rates go up, the stock market likely will fall, at least in the short run, as some investors panic about the impending recession they think will be sure to follow. If the Fed stays put, the market also could fall, as other investors express their disappointment at this shocking display of cowardice in the face of what they see as looming inflation.

Our takeaway? You can make money in either scenario, if you invest wisely. At Investing Daily we have both scenarios baked into our recommendations, so we’ll help you profit every step of the way.

And let that thought ease your mind as you enjoy Labor Day weekend.