After a week of waiting, investors finally got what they were waiting for this morning: the monthly read on U.S. unemployment and job growth. The headline number of 114,000 jobs wasn't all that exciting, although it weighed in a bit above the 110,000 consensus number of economist estimates. But once again, the unemployment rate posted a big improvement, falling to 7.8%. That's the first time the rate has been below the 8% mark since January 2009.
Moreover, upward revisions to job figures in previous months added another 86,000 jobs, and the labor force actually rose -- something we haven't always seen in past months when the unemployment rate has fallen. The Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI ) quickly jumped 60 points right after the open and are up 0.45% as of 10:50 a.m. EDT.
The newest member of the Dow, UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH ) , has fallen 1.35% in early trading. September's employment gains came primarily from the health care sector, where the economy added 44,000 jobs. Given that many health care jobs are reasonably high-paying, that's good news for the economy on the whole. For UnitedHealth, though, it's representative of the challenges it faces in keeping health care costs down in order to keep health insurance premiums in check.
The Dow's two big oil stocks, Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) and ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) , opened modestly higher. Exxon has traded near four-year highs, and Chevron has successively set new all-time highs despite crude oil prices staying in the $90 range. Higher prices for gasoline and other refined products, however, are starting to raise concerns as retail gas prices approach the $5 mark in some of the more costly local markets in the nation. For now, high spreads between crude and refined product prices are lucrative for integrated oil companies like Exxon and Chevron, but if prices go high enough that demand starts to drop, it could eventually have a negative impact.
Finally, JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) rose by about 1% after The Wall Street Journal reported that the bank's head of corporate and regulatory affairs will give up his position by the end of the year. Barry Zubrow had been the bank's chief risk officer before he was replaced in January. Given JPMorgan's trading debacle that resulted in billions in losses earlier this year, such a move would seem justified. But as the Journal noted, it's just the latest in many job changes in JPMorgan's upper echelons, raising concerns about the speed at which the bank's internal management is changing.
A tough job ahead
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