Economy Watch: ADP Says 175k Jobs Added in January

Job growth remains steady in spite of winter weather according to analysis of the latest ADP numbers. In addition, the Fed reports that most domestic banks are easing their lending standards on a variety of business and consumer loans.

Automated Data Processing asserted on Wednesday that the U.S. private sector created 175,000 jobs in January, with the largest number created by small businesses (less than 50 employees), who hired a net of 75,000 workers. Mid-sized businesses (50-499 employees) hired 66,000 workers, and large businesses (more than 500) only hired a net of 34,000 new workers.

“Cold and stormy winter weather continued to weigh on the job numbers,” Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, notes in a statement on the ADP report. “Underlying job growth, abstracting from the weather, remains sturdy. Gains are broad based across industries and company sizes, the biggest exception being manufacturing, which shed jobs, but that is not expected to continue.”

ADP’s numbers are not usually quite in sync with official employment numbers, which will be out at the end of the week. Last month, for instance, the BLS reported that only 74,000 jobs were created by the economy in December (including the public sector), while the ADP estimate for the month was a healthier 227,000 net new jobs.

Lending Standards Easing

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve released the January 2014 Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey on Bank Lending Practices, which found that more domestic banks are easing their lending standards on a variety of business and consumer loans during the last three months than are tightening them. Most banks report increasing loan demand over the past three months as well.

Banks eased their lending policies for commercial and industrial loans to firms of all sizes and experienced stronger demand for such loans over the past three months. Commercial real estate loans in particular are heating up, with lenders easing standards for most CRE loans, and borrowers eager to borrow at still-low interest rates.

The picture is more mixed with residential real estate loans. The survey indicated that a modest fraction of large banks eased standards on prime residential real estate loans, but a similar fraction of small banks tightened standards on those kinds of loans. Some banks reported weaker demand for prime mortgages, while a large fraction reported weaker demand for nontraditional mortgage loans. Many lenders eased standards on credit card loans, auto loans, and other consumer loans.

Service Sector Still Growing

The Institute for Supply Management said on Wednesday that its non-manufacturing index was up 1 percentage point to 54 percent in January, compared with December. The ISM New Orders Index increased to 50.9 percent, 0.5 percentage points higher than in December, and the Employment Index increased 0.8 percentage points to 56.4 percent. By all of the ISM metrics, the U.S. service sector is still growing (over 50 percent).

Wall Street dropped again on Wednesday, but the Dow at least almost clawed its way back to break-even by the end of the trading day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 5.01 points, or 0.03 percent, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq lost 0.2 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively.