It’s the first Friday of the month and we all know what that means. At 8:30 AM on the East Coast, or 5:30 AM here, the payroll numbers for the United States are released. Traders always watch this news as it can set the tone for the next few months, and the markets tend to be quiet and then break out with panicked buying or selling once everyone gets ahold of the number. Of course, political wonks and partisans also love to watch this news release, as it makes good material to argue the virtues of one candidate or another.
This Friday is a special situation. After many months of job losses, the pace of dismissals has been tapering off, although we have still not returned to job creation. If the current trend holds we are probably looking at around -100,000 for this month’s jobs number. Rumors going around suggest that a will have a major effect on the number of people reported as showing up for work. The link here mentions that in January 1996, there was another blizzard that caused a dip in the numbers. Since this was a temporary effect, the next month saw a significant jump in the payrolls, with 140,000 jobs added. That’s a difference of more than 350,000 jobs, although a large job loss number in January isn’t unusual as seasonal temporary workers are let go. Watch for a similar reversal this April, combined with the trend it might even push the numbers into positive territory and create a welcome psychological effect.
Once again we see that climate change has a clearly foreseeable effect on the markets. Strong weather conditions such as blizzards can increase in frequency because of warmer air over the Arctic. For example, the icebergs in the Arctic which are covered with carbon particles will melt, and seawater is much darker than ice. This will change the temperature of wind currents and the atmospheric pressure in the area, as well as allowing the heated air to absorb more water vapor, potentially creating strong storms. Since the ice concentration continues to shrink in recent years, future blizzards are not unexpected. We already know that a blizzard can affect the reported unemployment rate, and this rate in turn affects prices in many other actively traded markets. Companies should prepare a strategy to deal with this risk in the future, and they are now required to report future economic consequences due to this foreseeable event because of the recent SEC press release previously mentioned here.