Wall Street looks for boost in job numbers

Wall Street is looking for a boost on Tuesday morning from the September jobs report, which was delayed by the 16-day government shutdown. 

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics is expected to say that the economy added upward of 200,000 jobs in September and that the jobless rate remained steady, a sign that the labor market is exiting its summer doldrums. 

But forecasts for the report, initially due out Oct. 4, range widely from about 150,000, the lower end of the three-year average, to 200,000.

Keith Hall, a former head of the BLS who now works at George Mason University, had urged the government to release the report on time despite the shutdown.

On Monday, he criticized the long delay in releasing the data, which investors and businesses use to gauge the overall health of the economy.

"In addition to the looming possibility of an important change in Fed policy, there has been the mixed signals over the past few months," he said. 

"If there is a surprise in the data — particularly a bad surprise — then it will change many people's view of the labor market for the rest of the year."

The Fed will factor that data into its decision next week as to whether to curtail its $85 billion in monthly monetary stimulus. 

When the central bank failed to slow its purchases in September, market watchers revised their expectations for a taper to, at the earliest, December and possibly as late as March. 

Hall is expecting the addition of 160,000 jobs and a possible uptick in the unemployment rate because more people rejoined the workforce. 

That would suggest the reversal of a nagging trend that pushed the labor force participation rate down to a 35-year low in the past few months as people stopped looking for work.

Employers added 169,000 jobs in August but only 104,000 in July.

Mark Zandi, chief economist with Moody's Analytics, expects that 150,000 jobs were created in September, which is on the low end of the three-year average.

"Growth has slowed this year due primarily to the very significant fiscal austerity, including the tax increases and government spending cuts," Zandi said. 

The jobless rate is expected to drop to 7.2 percent from 7.3 because of weak labor force growth, he said. 

Reams of government data were slowed by the shutdown and the agencies are working out new release dates. 

Clearly, the congressional showdown over raising the debt ceiling and funding the government won't be reflected in these numbers but could take the next couple of months to shake out the effects on the labor market and provide an accurate picture as to the direction of the economy.