Employment Report Reveals Increase in Job Gains

The key events this past week, stronger than expected labor market data and major central bank meetings in Europe, were negative for mortgage rates. As a result, rates climbed to the highest levels since early 2020.

The closely watched employment report released on Friday exceeded expectations in nearly every area. Against a consensus forecast of 150,000, the economy gained 467,000 jobs in January, and revisions added a massive 709,000 jobs to the figures for prior months. Despite the surge in COVID cases, particular strength was seen in the leisure and hospitality sectors, which gained 151,000 jobs. 

The unemployment rate unexpectedly increased from 3.9% to 4%, but this was mostly due to a huge number of people returning to the labor force in January, a sign of strength. Average hourly earnings, an indicator of wage growth, were an impressive 5.7% higher than a year ago, up from 5% last month. In short, the labor market remains extremely tight, and the effects of Omicron on it likely will be very short-lived. Since stronger economic growth raises the outlook for future inflation, this report was unfavorable for mortgage rates. 

A couple of other significant economic indicators released this past week from the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) posted the expected declines but remained at very high levels by historical standards. The national service sector index came in at 59.9 and the national manufacturing index at 57.6. Levels above 50 indicate that the sectors are expanding, and readings above 60 are rare. Supply chain disruptions due to the pandemic have had a greater impact on manufacturing companies than on service providers.

The latest European Central Bank (ECB) and Bank of England (BOE) meetings took place last Thursday. While their actions were different, both leaned more strongly in favor of tighter monetary policy than expected. Following its first 25 basis point rate hike in December, the BOE raised rates by 25 basis points again this past week. By contrast, the ECB held rates steady, despite record-high inflation in January. However, comments made during the press conference caused investors to anticipate a rate hike as soon as the next meeting in March, much earlier than the outlook prior to the meeting. Global bond yields, including U.S. mortgage rates, moved higher on Thursday due to the prospect of tighter monetary policy in Europe.

Looking ahead, investors will closely follow news on the Omicron variant and will look for additional Fed guidance on the pace of future rate hikes and balance sheet reduction. Beyond that, it will be a very light week for economic data. The highlight will be the Consumer Price Index (CPI) on Thursday. CPI is a widely followed monthly inflation indicator that looks at the price changes for a broad range of goods and services.

By Michael Howell, Mortgage Loan Originator at Centennial Bank



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Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky



Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.