Official name: Employment Situation
What exactly? A measure of net new jobs created. Also measures the unemployment rate, average hourly earnings and the length of the average workweek.
Source: Labor Department
Released when? First Friday of the month at 8:30 a.m. Eastern. Data for prior month.
Market importance: High. Almost always moves markets. Very timely. Contains information about both job and wage growth and is considered the single best measure of the health of the economy. The tone of the employment report generally sets the tone for the other economic indicators that are released throughout the month.
Other notes: (a) Two key pieces of this report -- the unemployment rate and average hourly earnings -- appear in many inflation models. And various pieces of this report are used to help predict a host of other economic indicators. Average hourly earnings are used to help predict both personal income and the wages and salaries component of the Employment Cost Index. The index of aggregate manufacturing hours is used to help predict industrial production. The change in construction jobs is used to help predict both housing starts and construction spending. (b) For average hourly earnings, the headline number is the percent change from the prior month, but we also graph the year-on-year change. That way you can see the rate at which earnings are increasing or decreasing.