Tuesday, August 11, 2009
The next jobs report from the Labor Department won't be released for almost four weeks and, between now and then, there is sure to be plenty of talk about the state of the labor market, but, one thing to keep an eye on in next month's report is the ongoing strangeness in the seasonal adjustments for the auto industry.
As shown below in the unadjusted data, this is one data series that really does need seasonal adjustments since, prior to 2008, there was a very regular pattern during the summer, each July automakers laying off thousands of workers and rehiring them in August.
Of course, last year was notable because the firing came, right on schedule, but the re-hiring failed to materialize and, at the end of the year, job losses went to extreme levels as companies all across the land were letting loose millions of workers.
But, the reason all of this is of interest this summer is that, since so many layoffs occurred earlier in the year, when it came time to "seasonally adjust" the July data, there were not the usual set of cutbacks as evidenced by the lack of a plunge downward in the most recent data in the chart above.
Instead of 50,000 or more layoffs in July, there were just 8,600 actual job losses which then turned into a seasonally adjusted gain of 28,200 jobs, the biggest July increase in decades.
But it gets even more interesting next month...
As shown below circled in red, there is normally an increase in auto sector payrolls during the month of August that is similar to the decline in July though, as noted previously, last year this hiring surge failed to materialize turning a modest gain of 900 jobs into a seasonally adjusted loss of more than 36,200 because a much bigger gain was expected.
So, next month's labor report is now full of intrigue because the Cash 4 Clunkers program could restore the typical pattern of hiring during the month, in which case the seasonally adjusted data might be pretty typical.
However, if car makers balk at adding more workers, not sure if there will be a quick return to leaner times, the absence of hiring this month could produce a rather large job loss after seasonal factors are included even though there were few actual job losses.