U.S. hiring seen rebounding in September

By Reuters

Oct 03, 2014 07:02 AM EDT

U.S. employers likely stepped up hiring in September and the jobless rate probably held at a six-year low, which could bolster bets on a Federal Reserve rate hike in mid-2015.

Economists polled by Reuters expect U.S. non-farm payrolls rose by 215,000 last month, with the jobless rate staying at 6.1 percent.

Hiring had faltered in August but a range of signs from robust retail sales to optimism among factory managers point to a level of economic vigor unseen since before the 2007-09 recession.

"What we see is a measured confidence. The business sector is now much more likely to hire even before there is a fall in their inventories," said Patrick O'Keefe, an economist at CohnReznick and a former U.S. Labor Department official.

The Labor Department will release its monthly employment report at 8:30 a.m. on Friday. The report regularly sets the tone for financial markets worldwide.

There have been some signs of cooler economic activity in September, but economists have parsed this as less-torrid growth rather than a significant slowdown. Growth in factory activity throttled back in September, for example, but the pace of expansion remains near a three-year high.

Most economists see the economy expanding at around a 3 percent annual rate in the third quarter, well above the average over the last two years of 2.2 percent.

But solid economic growth and hiring is insufficient for the Fed to initiate an early interest rate increase.

Several officials at the U.S. central bank have expressed concern in recent weeks that inflation remains too low, a sign that a significant amount of slack remains in the economy. This raises the importance of the employment report's wage gauges.

"From our perspective, wages matter much more than headcount," economists at RBC said in a note to clients.

Average hourly earnings are expected to have increased 0.2 percent in September, equaling their advance in August. The length of the average workweek probably held steady at 34.5 hours for a seventh month in a row, the Reuters poll showed.

Factories are seen adding 12,000 jobs after not adding any the prior month, and many analysts think retail hiring will be padded by people getting back to work at New England grocery chain Market Basket. A management fight at the chain disrupted operations and weighed on payrolls in August.

Fed policymakers will scrutinize the data as they prepare for a policy meeting on Oct. 28-29. The central bank has kept benchmark lending rates near zero since December 2008 and financial markets do not foresee an increase until around the middle of next year.

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