This Friday, the U.S. Department of Labor will release its latest figures on the employment situation, including the average workweek and hourly earnings of persons in the manufacturing, mining, construction, services, and government sectors.
Investors and economists alike pay the most attention to the manufacturing sector because this sector of the economy often leads the business cycle.
Last month, total non-farm payrolls rose by 166,000 in October and the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.7 percent, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
However, employment in the manufacturing sector continued to decline, as manufacturers reduced their workforces by 21,000. Over the past twelve months, manufacturing firms have cut their staffs by 203,000.
Yesterday, the Institute of Supply Management reported that manufacturing in the U.S. grew in November at the slowest pace in 10 months. Given that, overall job growth likely also continued to slow during the month.
Initial claims for unemployment benefits also rose last week to their highest level since October 2005, so the unemployment rate also probably rose.
The slowdown in employment growth bodes poorly for the overall economy, as consumers will likely continue to rein in their spending.
Retail chain stores in the U.S. already expect the current winter holiday shopping season to be the worst since the last recession ended in November 2001.
Meanwhile, my investment models suggest that the rate of growth in U.S. exports will slow considerably going forward, as economic growth throughout many other regions of the world is also slowing. I therefore expect the U.S. economy to grow at an anemic rate over the next couple of quarters and for stock prices in general to fall.
However, my models indicate that stocks in the utilities sector will trend higher over the coming months. The Federal Reserve is expected to continue to lower interest rates in an effort to prevent a recession. When that happens, investors generally turn to dividend-paying utilities stocks to boost their return.
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