The most important number in Friday’s jobs report: Morning Brief

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The most important number in Friday’s jobs report: Morning Brief

Myles Udland·Markets ReporterFri, December 4, 2020, 5:00 AM CST·4 min read

Friday, December 4, 2020

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Was job growth positive or negative in November?

At 8:30 a.m. ET, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the November jobs report, the final monthly jobs number to be released in 2020.

Ahead of most jobs days, commentators will argue that some overlooked measure within the report — flows from unemployed to employed, prime-age labor force participation, and so on — is the real most important thing to watch for. And indeed, many of these measures help paint a fuller picture of the labor market than headline job gains and the unemployment rate.

But Friday’s report is not one of those reports. The most important number in November’s jobs report will be headline job gains. Specifically: did the economy create or lose jobs last month?

Expectations are that job gains slowed last month, but did not turn negative. Wall Street economists estimate that nonfarm payrolls grew by 475,000 last month while the unemployment rate fell to 6.8%, according to data from Bloomberg. In October, the economy added 638,000 jobs.

But some economists aren’t so confident that this report will show a labor market that is still seeing net job gains. Kathy Bostjancic, chief U.S. financial economist at Oxford Economics, said in a note this week the firm expects the economy lost 60,000 jobs last month, which would be the first decline since April.

“Our Recovery Tracker employment index and the underlying high frequency employment measures signal a marked cooling in labor demand amid the surge in COVID cases,” Bostjancic said in a note published Tuesday. “Large negative seasonal factors will weigh on the payroll count in the state and local sector as well in the private service sector. The employment shortfall relative to pre-COVID levels will remain a si

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