For the moment, at least, America's biggest economic worry -- the lofty unemployment rate -- may finally be taking a decided turn for the better.
In December, 103,000 new jobs were created in non-farm payroll employment. The January number, to be reported Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, could double that with a gain of between 175,000 and 215,000 jobs, according to Madeline Schnapp, the economics chief of West Coast liquidity tracker TrimTabs Research.
"We expect the job growth reported by the BLS to surprise on the upside," she says.
Interestingly, Schnapp, who got the moniker "Lady Dracula" in economic circles for being exceptionally bearish on the economy in recent years, has had a change of heart. No longer, like last October, is she warning of a gory jobs story. The reason for her positive shift, she tells me: the trillions of dollars in freshly printed and borrowed money pouring into the system, which she thinks could be a boon for new job creations..
Given her altered economic stance, maybe she should undergo a name change, say to Glinda, who was the good witch of the north in the Wizard of Oz.
Why the creation of gobs of new jobs in January? Schnapp offers a slew of reasons, namely:
- The TrimTabs online jobs posting index rose 4.5% in January, the biggest monthly gain since October of 2010.
- Initial unemployment claims have been trending lower since August of 2010.
- Commercial and industrial loan growth accelerated to 1% in the past month. Such strong growth often accompanies a pickup in job growth.
- The Federal Reserve's senior loan officer opinion survey reported the demand for business loans picked up in the fourth quarter of 2010, while demand for commercial and industrial loans was the strongest sine 2006.
- Fed manufacturing surveys for New York, Philadelphia, Richmond and Kansas City all reported rising employment.
- The Institute of Supply Management business conditions indices for Chicago and New York have both showed job improvements,
- The Fed's "beige book" (a Fed commentary of current economic conditions) reported that labor markets rose in most districts. Temporary staffing firms in six of 12 districts gave positive reports, while eight of 12 said their business contacts planned to hold hiring steady or increase hiring in 2011.
- Personal consumption expenditures rose 4.4% in last year's fourth quarter, the largest hike since the first quarter of 2006. Meanwhile final sales jumped 7.1%, the strongest growth since 1984.
- The ISM manufacturing index component surprised on the upside, pointing to strong employment growth.
- TrimTabs withholding tax data was strong the last two weeks of January.
Because a lot more discouraged workers are coming back into the labor force, Schnapp figures we may not see a sizable improvement in the unemployment rate (presently 9.4%. despite her projected jump in new jobs. In fact, she says, we may even see the unemployment rate actually rise.
While bullish now on the economy, Lady Dracula hastens to point out it's too soon to uncork a fresh bottle of champagne, given her two biggest long-term concerns: the question of whether the economy will be able to grow without extraordinary government support and the additional uncertainty of whether there are sufficient buyers of U.S. treasuries at low yields.
What do you think? E-mail me at Dandordan@aol.com