Here’s what to look for when the Labor Department releases the September U.S. employment report today at 8:30 a.m. in Washington:
-- Payrolls, jobless rate: The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey projects employers added 215,000 workers last month after a disappointing 142,000 increase in August that was the smallest this year. That would maintain this year’s monthly average at around 215,000 and keep 2014 on track for the strongest job growth in 15 years. The jobless rate is projected to hold at a six-year low of 6.1 percent.
-- “Everybody expects August to be a one-off and for us to rebound,” said Sam Bullard, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC in Charlotte, North Carolina, which forecast a 205,000 payroll gain. “We expect the trend rate of payroll growth to be maintained at around 225,000 for the remainder of this year and next.”
-- Wages, hours: Average hourly earnings of all workers are forecast to climb 2.2 percent in September from the same month a year earlier. From 2000 through 2007, earnings for non-supervisory workers rose an average 3.2 percent a year. Since then, they’ve averaged 2.4 percent growth. Economists project the average workweek held at 34.5 hours.
-- Weaker wage growth and labor market slack have been among concerns voiced by some officials at the Federal Reserve. There were 7.28 million employees working part-time involuntarily in August, up from 4.62 million when the recession began in December 2007. The number of workers discouraged by job prospects and no longer looking for work was 775,000 in August compared with 392,000 seven years earlier.
-- “Why would employers give raises on a broad-based spectrum when there’s still this excess supply?” said Laura Rosner, U.S. economist at BNP Paribas in New York, whose payrolls forecast matched the survey median. “We’re going to have to see that slack really absorbed before we see wages go up.”
-- The incomplete labor-market rebound has Fed policy makers holding their benchmark interest rate near zero more than five years after the recession. The central bank quadrupled its balance sheet to more than $4 trillion in an effort to stimulate growth. “There are still too many people who want jobs but cannot find them, too many who are working part-time but would prefer full-time work,” Fed Chairman Janet Yellen said during a Sept. 17 press conference.
-- Participation rate: The number of Americans working or looking for a job as a share of the civilian population 16 years old and older remains low by historical measures. The rate dipped to 62.8 percent in August, matching the lowest level since 1978.
-- Economists at Morgan Stanley in New York are among those forecasting the rate will hold steady for now. A projected 0.3 percentage point drop per year caused by the aging of the baby boom generation will probably be offset in the short run by the return of discouraged workers as the job market improves, they said in a research note.
-- Industry breakdown: Automakers probably boosted payrolls last month after fewer plant closings to retool for the new-model year caused staffing to surge in July and slump in August. Cars and light trucks sold in the third quarter at the strongest pace since the first three months of 2006, according to industry data.
-- Retail employment also should rise after worker protests and walk-outs at New England merchant Market Basket contributed to a 17,100 decline in grocery-store employment in August.
-- “We’d be looking for a bounce in food and beverage employment and autos, which would be two special factors that we think would contribute to what is looking to be another strong report,” said Michael Gapen, a New York-based senior U.S. economist for Barclays Plc. “The broad array of labor market indicators look pretty solid, and then we have two special factors that we think could help boost the headline.”