July Jobs Data Is Weak, But Strong Enough To Sock Mortgage Rates

This morning’s jobs report is doing a number on mortgage rates, putting another dent in home affordability nationwide.

Despite the slightly flat Unemployment Rate, the government’s July Non-Farm Payrolls report reinforced the notion that the recession may be ending soon, if it hasn’t already.

Just 247,000 jobs were lost last month — much fewer than analysts had expected.

Now, if it seems strange to be talking economic recovery while Americans are still losing jobs — 5.7 million in the last 12 months, in fact — remember that we have to take the data in context.

Job loss doesn’t lead to economic growth, per se, but analysts tend to treat employment data as a lagging indicator.  Business is often slow to hire and slow to fire, so the jobs report rarely reflects the “right now”.

A terrific real-world example of jobs data as a lagging indicator is that the peak of recent job loss — January 2009 — occurred 4 months after the peak of the financial crisis in September 2008.

The same pattern was present during the Recession of 2001.

Government data shows that job loss peaked during the recession in October 2001, 1 month before the recession’s official end.  Meanwhile, job losses continued nationwide for the next year and didn’t turn net positive until October 2002 — nearly 12 months into the recession’s subsequent recovery.

This is what we mean by lagging indicator and it’s why investors are cheering today’s jobs data.  Strength in today’s report may be signaling the end of the recession.

Unfortunately for today’s rate shoppers, it pushing mortgage rates higher.  As stock markets soar, bond markets sink.