In a week, the U.S. economy will celebrate its longest expansion on record (or at least since records were first kept in the 1850's). As of July, there will have been 121 consecutive months of growth, surpassing the 120 months of the technology boom of the nineties. (As a frame of reference, the average expansion lasts 58 months)
The government reported that the economy added a better than expected 263,000 jobs in April. It was the 103rd straight month of job growth, the longest streak on record. Nearly ten years into the expansion, job creation is 205,000 for the first four months of 2019, just above the monthly amount added since the labor market bottomed out in 2010.
The February jobs report was a mixed bag. Let’s get the bad news out of the way: the economy added only 20,000 positions, the smallest gain since September 2017. The number was much lower than last year’s average monthly amount of 223,000 and far below expectations for 190,000.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 closed out February with gains of 11 percent, the best two-month start since 1987 and 1991, respectively. The NASDAQ Composite and Russell 2000 were up 14 and 17 percent, all of which is to say that those investors who were crying the blues at the end of last year, are now feeling a bit of spring in their steps.
The last time the U.S. unemployment rate was this low, Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” was the number one song, “Hello Dolly” was the big holiday movie hit and war continued to rage in Vietnam. In December 1969, the unemployment rate was 3.7 percent and not until this September, has it been as low since.
So far, tariffs and trade conflicts have not negatively impacted the labor market. The economy added a solid 201,000 jobs in August and with revisions to the previous two months (down 50K), employers have added an average 207,000 a month to payrolls this year, quite a feat, considering that we are in the tenth year of the expansion.
At 12:01am Friday morning, the U.S. imposed previously announced tariffs on the European Union, Canada and Mexico. When the plan was unveiled back in March, the three regions were given a reprieve. The hope was that during a cooling off period, the U.S. would be able to convince the three to restrict metal shipments, as it had been able to do with South Korea, Brazil, Australia and Argentina.