Wall Street was granted its first reprieve of the New Year after a bad beginning to 2016. The latest U.S. jobs report, released on Jan. 8, finally slowed the decline in stock prices after the numbers came in better than expected. You can almost hear the champagne bottles popping to celebrate the good news, as investors were hungry for any bit of positive information after China's economic woes spooked markets throughout the world.
The unemployment rate held at 5%, with 292,000 new jobs added in December. The unemployment rate is now at its lowest point in seven years. While wage growth remains low, 2015 was still the best year for hiring in the past 15 years.
This jobs report might cool some emotions and help stabilize stock prices, but one person that won't be celebrating this bit of good news is billionaire George Soros. The chairman of Soros Fund Management believes an economic collapse to rival the financial crises of 2008 is brewing. Earlier this week, he warned attendees at an economic forum in Sri Lanka:
"China has a major adjustment problem," Soros said, according to Bloomberg Business. "I would say it amounts to a crisis. When I look at the financial markets there is a serious challenge which reminds me of the crisis we had in 2008."
When a man with a proven track record like Soros says something, people tend to take note.
The Problem With China
Concerns of a economic slowdown have been present for the past couple years, but it's been even more pronounced since the New Year as the Chinese Yuan drops in value. With China's once-robust growth slowing down, this could become a problem.
Investors in China are startled, with the CSI 300 index losing 10% of its value in 2016 and the entire stock exchange being halted twice in a week due to the rapid drops in prices. Chinese authorities wanted to stop people from selling in an effort to mitigate the drop in prices, yet the halted trading only seems to heighten fears among some Chinese investors of a collapse.
The sharp drops in the Chinese stock exchange affected the rest of the world, with the Dow Jones Industrial average down 4.6% in 2016. Volatility has greatly increased. The Chicago Board of Exchange's Volatility is up 10% since China first halted its exchange earlier this week.
America's Financial Footing
The stock market shenanigans are the most visible sign of a brewing global crisis. The world has become so reliant and intertwined with China that a decline in growth will send ripples to the rest of the world.
The Friday jobs report is undoubtedly welcome news that exceeds expectations, but these positive signs of growth are far too little according to some experts.
Economist Harry Holzer, former chief economist of the U.S. labor department, says that the slow growth of wages and low labor force participation rate are two crucial yet underperforming indicators.
Hourly wages were up just 2.3% in 2015, which outpaces inflation but still shows signs of weakness. Holzer says that the labor force participation rate of those below 55 years old -- and especially amount less-educated men -- remains a problem. "Their declining work activity reduces income not only in their own families and communities, but also shrinks the productive capacity of the economy as a whole," he said.
Those indicators show that stability of the 2008 financial crisis is fragile and ongoing. If Soros' worst fears of China become realized, then it will take a lot more than a positive jobs report to reassure investors and get the economy back on track.