The April unemployment survey in the United States was a puzzler by most accounts. The 266,000 additional payrolls were the largest shortfall in economists’ estimates for nonfarm payrolls since the 1990s when many expected 1 million workers to be added to payrolls last month. However, Wall Street was unshaken as it posted record gains at the end of the week.
While analysts warn that the figure is poor, considering how many people have fallen out of the workforce in the past year, the unemployment rate in April remained remarkably stable at 6.1 percent and the market maintained its bullish pace. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (+0.66%) and the S&P 500 index (+0.74%) posted record closes on Friday, as the weak jobs report affirmed views that the Federal Reserve will keep financial conditions easy for longer.
Despite Friday’s gains, large-cap technology stocks are also lagging behind the overall market. For the year, Apple Inc (AAPL.O) is down almost 2%, Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) is up less than 2%, and Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) is down 6.5 percent. Overall, the technology market is up 6.8% year to date, less than half of the S&P 500’s 12.6 percent increase (.SPX).
Furthermore, value stocks in cyclical sectors like financials, oil, and consumer sectors are soaring. The Russell 1000 Value index (.RLV) has gained 18 percent this year, including 0.7 percent on Friday, while the Russell 1000 Growth index (.RLG) has gained 6.3 percent this year, including 0.6 percent on Friday.
Although some technology stocks rose on Friday after a lacklustre U.S. unemployment report, some portfolio managers believe that recent blowout profits from many major technology firms are insufficient to justify continuing to make large bets on the industry.
The 266,000 new jobs added in April was a significant decrease from the 770,000 new jobs added in March. The rise in April was fueled by employment growth in the leisure and hospitality sector, which gained 330,000 jobs, with more than half of those in restaurants and bars. Overall, the industry employs 2.8 million fewer people than it did prior to the pandemic.
Wide losses in temporary support providers and couriers and messaging services, as well as smaller drops in manufacturing and retail, reversed those gains. Construction employment remained largely stable.
Because of the high liquidity created by the stimulus package and the FED’s decision to keep rates unchanged, the stock market appears to be immune for the time being. The biggest issue on most people’s mind is how long this positive mood will last in the economy.