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Unemployment Rate Rises to 5.7%

Payroll employment fell by 5,000 in October, in line with market expectations of unchanged. The unemployment rate ticked up 0.1 to 5.7%, a bit less than the 5.8% consensus. The household survey showed a 271,000 drop in employment, reversing the jump last month; but this number is not trusted month-to-month.

Manufacturing employment slumped another 49,000 and construction was off 27,000, reflecting weather. Services jobs were up 70,000, including a 24,000 gain in government jobs. Last month's drop of 13,000 jobs was revised from the initial estimate of a 43,000 decline, again making the October drop hard to analyze.

Weekly hours dropped 0.1 to 34.1, reversing last month's rise. And hourly earnings were up 0.3%, in line with expectations.

Overall, it was a neutral report, with the upward revision last month and the lower-than-expected unemployment rate offsetting the drop in payrolls. However, we probably needed a positive surprise to prevent the Federal Reserve from loosening interest rates Wednesday.

ISM Manufacturing Index Falls

The October ISM Manufacturing Report on Business fell to 48.5% from 49.5% in September. The drop was near the consensus of 49.0. The West Coast dock strike had an impact, as the import component dropped 6 points. The strike probably affected other components, including inventories and orders. Export orders, however, were actually higher.

The index shows a contraction in manufacturing for the second consecutive month, but remains consistent with growth of the overall economy. The data again point to the Fed loosening rates Wednesday. From S&P MarketScope

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