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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Private-sector employers added 215,000 jobs in December, well above economists' expectations, a report by a payrolls processor showed on Thursday.
Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast the ADP National Employment Report would show a gain of 133,000 jobs. November's private payrolls were revised upward to show a gain of 148,000 from the previously reported 118,000.
The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose last week, but the data continues to be too distorted by the holidays to offer a clear read of labor market conditions.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 372,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week's figure was revised to show 12,000 more applications than previously reported.
Claims data reported for the week ended December 22 had been artificially depressed by the holidays, which resulted in data for 19 states being estimated.
MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST AT MOODY'S ANALYTICS, TOLD CNBC:
"All the labor market data….has held up very, very well so (there is) no sign of the fiscal cliff impact on the job market."
Zandi added that construction jobs in December were probably boosted by rebuilding after superstorm Sandy hit the U.S. East Coast in late October, but longer-term prospects were also good for the sector and he said he expected manufacturing jobs to pick up moving into 2013.
MILLAN MULRAINE, SENIOR ECONOMIST, TD SECURITIES, NEW YORK:
"Overall, with the revamped methodology the track record of the ADP report in predicting the official payrolls number has improved. However, there is a tendency in this report to overestimate the December estimate, and over the past three years the miss has averaged 92,000 on an as-reported basis."
TOM PORCELLI, CHIEF U.S. ECONOMIST, RBC GLOBAL MARKETS, NEW YORK:
"The thought is that it was a fairly firm report, there was some Sandy impact as it relates to construction jobs, but even if you adjust for that, it still would've been a fairly good number."
"It will not change our numbers. My impression is after getting beyond the fiscal cliff, people are latching onto anything that seems remotely positive, and this ADP report fits quite nicely there."
DAVID ADER, HEAD OF GOVERNMENT BOND STRATEGY, CRT CAPITAL GROUP, STAMFORD, CONNECTICUT:
"Obviously stronger-than-expected, led by construction and trade/transport, but some seasonal quirks at hand. Still, the (Treasuries) market is off on this data, with tens and thirties equally underperforming on the curve. No note of any Sandy impact mentioned yet, but hard to dismiss."
"In terms of implications for the payrolls report tomorrow, we tend to discount this a little bit, especially around the turn of the year, because ADP tends to be very volatile in December, in particular.
"We expect something like a steady pace of hiring in tomorrow's report, we are at 150 overall and 160 on private payrolls. What it actually implies is that the pace of hiring is going to be steady, no acceleration and no declines either. A steady pace.
JOHN BRADY, MANAGING DIRECTOR AT R.J. O'BRIEN & ASSOCIATES IN CHICAGO:
"The underlying economy has momentum, and the employment data confirms that. The hope and prayer of the market is that our political leaders don't screw it up. The political issues in Washington counter the momentum we're seeing in the economy, but you might see still equities grind higher today on this."
FOREX: The dollar pared losses versus yen, and extended gains versus the euro BONDS: U.S. Treasury debt prices turned negative and held steady at lower price levels after weekly jobless claims.
GRAPHICS: ADP vs. the U.S. Labor Department: The ADP National Employment Index shows an increase of 215,000 private sector jobs in December - 67,000 more than analysts expect Friday's Labor Department report to show. link.reuters.com/fex44t
U.S. jobless claims: New claims for unemployment rose last week to 372,000. For the week ended Dec 22, continuing claims rose to 3.25 mln. link.reuters.com/xew34t
Americas Economics and Markets Desk; +1-646 223-6300