Chief economist update: Americans who want work will find it

Financial markets expect the US Federal Reserve's FOMC meeting this week (7-8 November) to be a ho-hum event. In fact, the CME FedWatch Tool puts the probability of the Fed keeping the fed funds rate at 2-2.25% at 92.8% - almost a sure "no change" thing.

However, betting on the pre-Christmas meeting (18-19 December) is different.  Here, the odds are, according to, 73.6% that the US central bank will raise interest rates by 25 basis points to 2.25%-2.5%.

Yes Virginia, I'm scratching my bald head too. Only 73.6% chance, after the Fed already intimated on several occasions that it will and shall take the federal funds rate higher in the final month of December?

Not only this, these odds were tabulated after the release of the US non-farm payrolls report that showed a strong surge in employment and correspondingly rising wages.

US employment increased by 250,000 in October after the addition of 118,000 workers on payrolls in the previous month. This is sharply higher than market expectations for an increase of 190,000. But more than that, average monthly growth in employment has stepped up to 212.5 heads in the first 10 months of 2018 from 182.3 in 2017.

Recall back in Madam Yellen's days her words that it would take about a 100,000 increase in jobs monthly to absorb new entrants to the labour force. Needless to say, they have all been absorbed ... and then some. The unemployment rate has remained at a 49-year low of 3.7% despite the participation rate rising to 62.9% in October from 62.7% in November.

The labour market's tightness is being reflected in rising wages. Average hourly earnings growth accelerated to 3.1% in the year to October from 2.8% in the previous month.

No wonder American consumers are so happy. The Conference Board's consumer sentiment index rose to an 18-year high of 137.9 in October - same with present and future expectations. Not only this, the Conference Board's survey also offered positive indications with regards to consumers' jobs expectations.

Those saying that "jobs are plentiful" rose to a reading of 45.9 in October - the highest level in 17 years - while respondents saying that "jobs are hard to get" dropped to 13.2 - the lowest since 2001.

The strong labour market not only suggests strong consumer spending but even stronger consumer spending for the US macro economy.

This is because while gaining employment provides income - and in this case, offers of higher salaries - more employed Americans would benefit from Trump's tax cuts.

Not only that, the US government budget wins too, in that it's spending less on unemployment benefits. Latest data show that continuing jobless claims dropped to 1,631,000 in the week ending 20 October - the lowest level since the mid-1970s and is edging closer to the record low of 0.988K recorded in May 1969.

Whether by luck or design, the booming US economy would have been US president Donald Trump's major legacy to the world - with America super charging growth all around the globe.

But alas! Reminiscent of the song, Trump spoils it all by saying something stupid like "trade war" and "closed borders".

Those extra workers America needs but couldn't fill can be sub-contracted to Mexico or China - easing domestic inflation pressures that, in turn, will keep the US Federal Reserve at bay.

I bet Trump's already preparing his tweet when the Fed lifts rates next month.

Read more: FedAmericaAmericansConference BoardDonald TrumpUS Federal ReserveChinaCME FedWatch Toolcmegroup.comFOMCMadam YellenMexicoYes Virginia
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