The November jobs report was released Friday and the numbers were much stronger than expected.
About 263,000 jobs were created last month, down a smidge from the upwardly revised 284,000 gigs created a month before but way better than the 200,000 jobs expected by economists.
So why did the Dow initially tumble by hundreds of points?
The most obvious reason is that the resilient labor market and generally robust economy are defying ongoing efforts by the Federal Reserve to cool things down and lower the highest consumer prices in 40 years.
Months of rates hikes have been intended to make borrowing more expensive and thus pour cold water over economic growth.
Yet while layoffs have been increasing in some sectors — notably tech and media — other sectors, including hospitality and healthcare, are still hiring aggressively.
The question among Wall Street traders is whether the Fed will now apply more medicine to the economy to get its desired effect.
Financial markets anticipate a half-point rate increase when Fed officials convene this month, down from the three-quarter-point rate hikes seen in past months.
That’s still likely. The Fed won’t want to freak everyone out by throwing markets a curve ball with an unexpectedly high increase on Dec. 14.
But Friday’s jobs report raises questions about what to expect in 2023. Many economists have been anticipating quarter-point rate hikes in the first and second quarters of next year.
Is another half-point increase now in the cards?
Moreover, perhaps the biggest red flag in the latest jobs report is that wages are still rising, up 0.6% from the month before and 5.1% higher than a year ago.
Here’s the thing: Higher wages typically incentivize businesses to raise prices in hopes consumers will be comfortable spending their increased pay.
That, in turn, only exacerbates the inflation situation.
“The November employment report delivers a holiday season package of good news for American workers, including a strong increase in wages,” Mark Hamrick, Bankrate’s senior economist, said in a statement.
“In keeping with the classic divide sometimes seen between Main Street and Wall Street, the report tells the Federal Reserve it has more work to do in its battle against inflation.”
All in all, a persistently strong economy normally would be something to feel good about.
But in Goldilocks terms, ours is a bit too hot.