NEW YORK (
) -- Beware of November's jobs report.
While economists, investment analysts and traders cheered the surprising 204,000 jobs added in October, many of them cautioned that the government shutdown could have a lagging effect on the labor market.
"It sort of proves the case, given the revisions, that we had strength heading into the shutdown," Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab, said in a phone interview. "It may be a little too soon to say there was no effect from the shutdown, because we'll have to see what happens next month."
Economists were expecting nonfarm payrolls to rise just 120,000 in October and for the unemployment rate to gain to 7.3%. The rate rose to that level as expected, but the topline jobs number beat forecasts as economists may have overestimated the immediate effects of the 16-day shutdown.
A deeper dive into the numbers revealed some weak spots in the report. The U-6 measure -- total unemployed, plus people marginally attached to the workforce, long-term unemployed and part time -- ticked higher to 13.8%, from 13.6%. The labor force participation rate declined to 62.8% from 63.2% -- a drop that actually may have prevented the unemployment rate from rising half a percentage point, said Darrell Cronk, regional chief investment officer.
Republicans and conservatives have been among the most vocal critics of the steadily lowering participation rate, and have said it suggests that the protracted slow economic regrowth in the United States has left workers looking for work discouraged. While the GOP has used the indicator as a political tool, economists of varying disciplines generally agree the decline has been alarming.
Still, the labor force participation rate can't be cited as the main culprit.
BlackRock Chief Investment Strategist Russ Koesterich said the participation rate has been falling for 13 years, and while the current economic circumstances are contributing to it, there are changes in how long people go to school, and an ageing population. It's not just what happens month to month, there are longer-term structural forces at work, Koesterich said.