Investing

Job gains, job losses, and other news affecting your money this week

Twenty/20

Another week with an all-time high for the U.S. stock market within reach — and another week of no new records.

While the House's plans to start an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump could cause some market uncertainty, for now Wall Street is more focused on the U.S.-China trade war. And the next round of talks between leaders of the two countries has been set for mid-October. There has been some other positive news, too: Several key economic reports came in better than expected, including home sales and manufacturing activity.

This week is all about the labor market. Wall Street will closely track the monthly jobs report, along with some additional employment data, to get a sense of both job growth and job losses. And traders care so much about whether companies are hiring or firing because this impacts broader economic growth.

Here's what to watch this week, and how the news could affect your wallet.

Did hiring slow or accelerate?

What's happening: There's a slew of data in the Department of Labor's monthly employment report, but the main headline number — the number of nonfarm jobs created — is what Wall Street awaits the first Friday of every month. Economists currently project that employers added more jobs in September than in August. Ahead of that is another employment report from payroll processor ADP on Wednesday that measures hiring gains at private companies — and economists currently project a decline from the prior month.

Why it matters: Job growth has slowed this year. On average, employers have added about 158,000 jobs each month this year, the lowest since 2009. Lackluster hiring is one symptom of the weaker economic growth that led the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates twice over the summer. Some traders and policymakers think the Fed should lower interest rates further, and if employment data weakens, that might be justification for them to do so.

What it means for you: While there continue to be gains in hiring, the U.S. economy is heading toward full employment, meaning almost everyone willing and able to work has a job. This could be good news for workers — economists expect that full employment could result in wage increases. The jobs report can also be informative because it shows which industries are hiring the most.

Because this is one of the most-watched economic reports on Wall Street, any surprises can result in short-term swings in the stock market.

Layoffs are on the rise

What's happening: The other big number that Wall Street tracks from the jobs report is the unemployment rate — and that's been at 3.7% for the past three months, the lowest since 1969. Ahead of that is the weekly report detailing the number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits. Economists expect that number to be slightly higher for the report scheduled to be released on Thursday.

What it means: The labor market remains relatively strong and jobless claims are near the lowest level in decades. But companies have been downsizing this year. Through August, employers have announced plans to cut more than 423,000 jobs, up 36% from the same period in 2018 and the highest eight month total since 2015, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an executive outplacement firm.

What it means for you: It can be helpful to monitor what industries are cutting back to get a better sense of the areas of weakness in the U.S. economy. Despite concerns in recent months that another recession could be coming, a slowdown doesn't appear imminent. Either way, it can help to focus on steps you can take now to recession-proof your life.

The bottom line

While the S&P 500 has been flirting with a new all-time high for weeks, it hasn't hit one yet. If such a record comes this week, it will mark the 14th of 2019. Even so, it's a reminder of just how good this year has been for investors, with the benchmark index up about 18% — nearly double its long-term average.

Even so, experts warn that bumpiness could return to the market again, especially when the next round of trade negotiations takes place. Any market turbulence can be a good opportunity for long-term investors to buy stocks at lower prices. And no matter what happens in any given week, it's important to keep perspective and remain consistent with your investment strategy.

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