MacroMavens founder Stephanie Pomboy warned Friday following the release of the July employment report that “markets are going to be in for a rude awakening.”
Speaking on “Mornings with Maria,” the economist noted that “employment is the most lagging of lagging indicators” and that is “troubling” for what it implies for the Federal Reserve.
The economist argued that the Fed “really put most of their eggs in this employment basket, and they’re looking at a lagging indicator to tell them when it’s time that they have tightened enough, which suggests that they are going to overdo it on the rate hikes.”
Late last month, the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate by 75 basis points for the second straight month as it tries to bring persistent inflation under control, a move that threatens to slow US economic growth and exacerbate financial pressure on Americans.
US ECONOMY ADDS 528,000 JOBS IN JULY, BLOWING PAST EXPECTATIONS
The move puts the key benchmark federal funds rate at a range of 2.25% to 2.50%, the highest since the pandemic began two years ago. It marks the fourth consecutive rate increase this year.
Policymakers signaled in their post-meeting statement that additional increases are likely in the coming months as they remain “strongly committed to returning inflation to its 2% objective.” Chairman Jerome Powell said during his post-meeting press conference that another 75-basis point hike could be appropriate in the future, but that it ultimately hinges on upcoming economic data.
Inflation accelerated more than expected in June, with the Labor Department reporting last month that the consumer price index surged 9.1% last month, the fastest pace since 1981.
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But the efforts to combat inflation carry a potential risk of recession, with a growing number of economists and Wall Street firms forecasting an economic downturn this year or next. Hiking interest rates tends to create higher rates on consumer and business loans, which slows the economy by forcing employers to cut back on spending.
There have been conflicting signs about the economy’s health given the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits has gradually increased, companies have announced layoffs or hiring freezes and the housing market is softening. At the same time, unemployment remains near a historic low and consumers are still spending heavily despite soaring inflation.
Pomboy noted on Friday that “every other leading indicator of employment has rolled over hard,” including small business polls and all the regional Fed surveys.
“Basically every single employment indicator with the exception of payroll has rolled over so I think it’s just a question of time before this one rolls over as well,” she argued.
“Meanwhile, the Fed is navigating through the rear-view mirror, which is dangerous at any speed, but especially when you’re pushing the fastest rate hikes in the history of our economy so I do think that the markets are going to be in for a rude awakening here.”
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Markets sank Friday morning as the data dashed hopes of a more dovish Fed in coming months.
US job growth unexpectedly accelerated in July, defying fears of a slowdown in hiring even as the labor market confronts the twin threats of scorching-hot inflation and rising interest rates.
Employers added 528,000 jobs in July, the Labor Department said in its monthly payroll report, blowing past the 250,000 jobs forecast by Refinitiv economists. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, edged down to 3.5%, the lowest level since the COVID-19 pandemic began more than two years ago.
The uptick in hiring follows revelations that the economy meets the technical criteria for a recession with back-to-back quarterly declines in gross domestic product – the broadest measure of goods and services produced in the nation.
Many economists have argued that the strong jobs market has so far prevented the US from sliding into a downturn, but Pomboy stressed that the data could be misleading given the employment data is a “lagging” indicator.
Former Reagan economic adviser Steve Moore also weighed in on the “blockbuster” July employment report shortly after its release Friday, noting that he was “surprised by the high numbers.”
Speaking on “Mornings with Maria,” he said that he is “troubled by the wage story because that’s really the story, I think, of the labor market right now.”
The incredibly tight labor market is in part fueling record-high inflation, as millions of workers are seeing the largest pay gains in years – the result of companies competing with one another for a limited number of employees. Earnings rose 5.2% in July from the previous year, much higher than the pre-pandemic average of 3%. On a monthly basis, wages rose 0.5%, coming in hotter than economists expected.
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“The wages were up a bit, but when you have 5.2% wage growth when you have 9.1% inflation, that’s still a big problem for American workers,” Moore stressed.
He then said that he believes the US is currently in a “soft recession,” calling it “a cost of living recession for average, middle income workers.”
FOX Business’ Megan Henney contributed to this report.