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The most important economic indicator by far is the monthly Employment Situation published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). No other report has the potential to move the forex market like employment and no other indicator is more revealing of general economic conditions than the labor market data. Employment data is important because it reveals how firms, corporations, and others responsible for hiring decisions view the current and upcoming economic environment.

The monthly employment report is based on two separate surveys: the Current Population Survey (CPS), aka the household survey, and the Current Employment Statistics survey (CES), aka the establishment, or payrolls, survey. Supplemental to each release, the commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a statement to the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress. The statement, generally three pages long, highlights significant strengths and weaknesses in the monthly employment statistics.

Top billing on the employment report is generally shared by two figures; the unemployment rate and the monthly change in nonfarm payrolls. Average hourly earnings, hours worked, overtime hours worked and the monthly change in manufacturing jobs also command a great deal of traders attention.

In the employment surveys, the BLS includes only persons older than sixteen. Excluded from surveys are people in mental or penal institutions and members of the armed forces. People qualify as employed in two ways. First are those who, during a given period, have worked as paid employees in someone else’s company or in their own businesses or on their own farms or have done fifteen hours or more of unpaid labor in a family-operated enterprise. Second are those with jobs or in businesses from which they have take temporary leave, paid or unpaid, because of illness, bad weather, vacation, child-care problems, labor disputes, maternity or paternity leave or other family or personal obligations.

Unemployed people are those not working during the period in question, whether because they voluntarily terminated their employment, in which case they are classified as job leavers, or because they were involuntarily laid off, making them job losers.

Strong relationships exist between the employment data and virtually every other indicator. The growth rate of non farm payrolls is generally strongly correlated with the growth rate of GDP, industrial production and capacity utilization, consumer confidence, spending, and income.