Crucial pre-election payroll report looks weak

WASHINGTON, Mon Oct 29, 2012 – The last employment report before the U.S. presidential election is likely to have something for everyone – for those bullish and bearish on the economy and for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Non-farm payrolls in October are forecast to have risen 124,000, barely more than September’s 114,000 gain, according to 78 economists polled by Reuters. The unemployment rate probably edged back up to 7.9 percent after falling to 7.8 percent from 8.1 percent last month. The figures are due on Friday.

On the face of it, that would reinforce the charge leveled by Romney, a Republican, that the policies of his Democratic opponent are to blame for the slowest post-recession recovery since the war.

The proportion of America’s working-age population that is employed has fallen to 58.7 percent from 60.6 percent when the Democrat took office in January 2009.

But Obama can counter that nearly 800,000 more Americans are in work today than when he became president and that five million jobs have been created since the December 2009 trough, according to the Bureau for Labor Statistics.

Small business payrolls rise by 55,000 in December; paychecks up, too

WASHINGTON ― Small businesses created 55,000 jobs in December and increased working hours for employees, further evidence the labor market was strengthening.

In addition, workers at small businesses saw a rise in their paychecks last month, said payrolls processing company Intuit on Wednesday.

December’s gain compared to November’s upwardly revised 70,000 count, which was previously reported as an increase of 55,000.

The jobs market is showing signs of firming, with the unemployment rate dropping to a 2-1/2-year low of 8.6 percent in November. In addition, first-time applications for state unemployment benefits are hovering near 3-1/2-year lows.Households’ perceptions of the labor market are also improving, with measures of jobs “plentiful” and “hard to get” in the Conference Board’s December consumer sentiment survey yielding their best readings since January 2009.

The revision to Intuit’s small business payrolls in November suggests that the government’s nonfarm employment count for that month could be raised from 120,000 when figures for December are released on Friday.

December nonfarm payrolls are expected have increased 150,000 according to a Reuters survey, with the unemployment rate seen edging up to 8.7 percent.

The government has been revising the prior months’ nonfarm payrolls figures higher and analysts say the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ model tends to delay the count of small business employment.

The Intuit survey is based on responses from about 72,000 small businesses with fewer than 20 employees that use the Intuit Online Payroll system. It covered the period from Nov. 24 to Dec. 23.

The average work week for small business employees rose 0.4 percent to 25.4 hours, while the average monthly salary increased 0.4 percent to $2,706.

Increase in July payrolls may soothe recession fears

WASHINGTON ― U.S. job growth accelerated more than expected in July as private employers stepped up hiring, a development that could ease fears the economy was sliding into a fresh recession.

U.S. payrolls increased 117,000, the Labor Department said on Friday, above market expectations for an 85,000 gain. The unemployment rate dipped to 9.1 percent from 9.2 percent in June, but this was mostly the result of people leaving the labor force.

The payrolls count for May and June was revised to show 56,000 more jobs added than previously reported

The report was the first encouraging piece of economic data in some time.

Fears that U.S. economy might be sliding back into recession, coupled with Europe’s inability to tame its spreading debt crisis have roiled global financial markets. Economists see the odds of a recession as high as 40 percent.

U.S. stocks on Thursday suffered their worst sell-off in two years.

Top policymakers at the Federal Reserve will sift through the report when they meet on Tuesday but are not expected to announce any new measures to support the sputtering recovery.

The U.S. central bank has cut interest rates to zero and spent $2.3 trillion on bonds. Policymakers have said they want to see how the economy fares before taking any further action.