With the Debt Debate Behind Us, the Focus Returns To the Fed
June 5, 2023
By Krista Eberly, CFP®, CIMI®
Investment Management Officer
Congress and the Biden Administration reached a deal last week to suspend the debt ceiling to January 1, 2025 and avoid default on federal debt coming due and delay of other federal obligations. The President signed the bill over the weekend.
Now that the drama in Washington is behind us (for now), investors can shift their focus back to the Federal Reserve and its path to return inflation to its 2% objective. The major area of the economy complicating these efforts is the resilient labor market. Last week, we received an update on it.
April Jobs Report
On Wednesday, the Labor Department released the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) for the month of April. The survey showed job openings increased back above ten million, exceeding all estimates. The industries with the biggest increases in openings were transportation, retail & utilities, and education & health services. In addition, the ratio of openings to unemployed individuals rose to 1.8. The one positive for the Fed in this report is the quits rate, those voluntarily leaving their job. This measure fell to 2.3% of the workforce, approaching pre-COVID levels.
On Friday, the non-farm payrolls showed 339,000 jobs added in the month of May. This was significantly higher than the expectation of 195,000. In addition, the prior two months were revised higher. Education & health services, professional & business services, government, and leisure & hospitality represented over three-fourths of the jobs added. There were only two areas with job losses: manufacturing and information technology. Outside of those sectors, hiring remains firm. The one bright side to the report (from the Fed’s perspective) was the unemployment rate rising to 3.7%.
Why It Matters To the Fed
Why does the labor market matter to the Fed? It has a dual mandate of price stability and maximum employment. A strong labor market and continued demand for workers puts upward pressure on wages. This increases the challenge for the Fed to return inflation to its 2% objective without pushing the U.S. economy into a recession. Thus far, the overall economy has held up well to the Fed’s aggressive rate hike cycle. However, monetary policy operates with a lag effect.
This is the last of the labor market data before the Fed’s next policy meeting on June 13-14. There is one more release of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) that will solidify if a rate increase is on the table at that meeting. As of now, the markets are pricing in a pause in June before the Fed resumes rate hikes in July. Stay tuned to see what the Fed decides. This will play a factor into how the markets end the second quarter.
We are quickly approaching the mid-year mark for 2023. It is crazy to think this year is almost half over! If you have not yet scheduled a review of your portfolios, please reach out to to your Wealth Management Advisor for a mid-year update. Your financial success matters to us!