What Is Nonfarm Payroll?
A nonfarm payroll is an economic report used to describe the number of Americans employed in the United States, excluding farm workers and select other U.S. workers, including some government employees, private household employees, and non-profit organization workers.
Known as “the jobs report” the nonfarm payroll looks at the jobs gained and lost during the previous month.
The US Nonfarm Payroll Report Explained
The NFP report studies US employment via two main surveys by the US government of private employers and government entities.
• The U.S. Household Survey. This report breaks down the employment numbers on a demographic basis, studying the jobs rate by race, gender, education, and age.
• The Establishment Survey. The result of this survey tracks the amount of jobs by industry as well as the number of hours worked and average hourly earnings.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics then combines the data from those reports and issues the updated figures via the nonfarm payroll report on the first Friday of every month, and some call the week leading up to the report “NFP week.” Economists view the report as a key economic indicator of the US economy.
How Does NFP Affect the Markets?
Many investors watch the nonfarm payroll numbers very closely as a measure of market risk. Surprise numbers can create potentially large market movements in key sectors like stocks, bonds, gold, and the US dollar, depending on the monthly release numbers.
Investors create a strategy based on how they think markets will behave in the future, so they attempt to factor their projections for jobs report numbers into the price of different types of investments. Changing or unexpected numbers, however, could prompt them to change their strategy.
If the nonfarm payroll number reflects a robust employment sector, for example, that could lead to a rise in US stock market values along with a hike in the US dollar relative to other global currencies. If the nonfarm payroll points to a downward-spiraling job sector, however, with declining wages and low employment growth, that could portend a stock market downturn and the US dollar could also decline in value, as investors lose confidence in the US economy and adjust their investment portfolios accordingly.
4 Figures From the NFP Report to Pay Attention To
Investors look specifically at several figures within the jobs report:
The Unemployment Rate
The unemployment rate is central to US economic health, and it’s a factor in the Federal Reserve’s assessment of the nation’s financial health and the potential for a future recession. A rising unemployment rate could result in economic policy adjustments (like higher or lower interest rates), which could impact the financial markets, domestically and globally.
Higher-than-expected unemployment could push investors away from stocks and toward assets that they consider more safe, such as gold, potentially triggering a stock market correction.
Employment Sector Activity
The nonfarm payroll report also examines employment activity in specific business sectors, like manufacturing or the healthcare industry. Any significant rise or fall in sector employment can impact financial market investment decisions on a sector-by-sector basis.
Average Hourly Wages
Investors may look at average hourly pay as a good barometer of overall US economic health. Rising wages point to stronger consumer confidence, and to a stronger economy overall. That scenario could lead to a stronger stock market, but it may also indicate future inflation.
A weaker hourly wage figure may be taken as a negative sign by investors, leading them to reduce their stock market positions and seek shelter in the bond market, or buy gold as a hedge against a declining US economy.
Revisions in the Nonfarm Payroll Report
Nonfarm payroll figures, like any specific economic benchmarks, are dynamic in nature and change all the time. Thus, investors watch any revisions to previous nonfarm payroll assessments to potentially re-evaluate their own portfolios based on changing employment numbers.
How to Trade the Nonfarm Payroll Report
While long-term investors typically do not need to pay attention to any single jobs report, those who take a more active, trading approach may want to adjust their strategy based on new data about the economy. If you fall into the latter camp, you’ll typically want to make sure that the report is a factor that you consider, though not the only one.
You’ll want to look at other economic statistics as well as the technical and fundamental profiles of individual securities that you’re planning to buy or sell. Then, you’ll want to devise a strategy that you’ll execute based on your research, your expectations about the jobs report, and whether you believe it indicates a bull or a bear market ahead.
For example, if you expect the nonfarm payroll report to be a positive one, with robust jobs growth, you might consider adding stocks to your portfolio, as they tend to appreciate faster than other investment classes after good economic news. If you believe the nonfarm payroll report will be negative, you may consider more conservative investments like bonds or bond funds, which tend to perform better when the economy is slowing down.
Or, you might opt to take a more long-term approach, taking the opportunity to potentially get stocks at a discount and invest while the market is down.
Markets do move after nonfarm payroll reports, but long-term investors don’t have to make changes to their portfolio after every new government data dump. That said, active investors may use the jobs report as one factor in creating their investment strategy.
Whatever your strategy, a great way to start executing it is via the SoFi Invest® brokerage platform. It allows you to build your own portfolio, consisting of stocks, exchange-traded funds, and other investments such as IPOs and crypto currency. You can get started with an initial investment of as little as $5.
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