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A Traders’ Guide to Navigating US Non-Farm Payrolls (NFP)


A Traders’ Guide to Navigating US Non-Farm Payrolls (NFP)

A Traders’ Guide to Navigating US Non-Farm Payrolls (NFP)

Vantage Updated Updated Wed, 2024 January 17 09:59

The US Non-Farm Payrolls report, or NFP for short is one of the most closely watched economic indicators in the world.

The Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS), an agency for the US Department of Labour, releases this report a monthly basis to valuable insights into the health and employment rates of the US economy. 

It’s become a key measurement of the national economic health because it covers 80% of the workforce of those employed in manufacturing, goods, and construction. These industries contribute to gross domestic product (GDP) which impacts the financial markets tremendously.

Read on to find out why non-farm payrolls (NFPs) matter and how you can trade them.

When Exactly Will the Non-Farm Payrolls (NFP) Report Released?

NFP data is typically released on the first Friday of every month at 08.30 New York time, which is 13.30 GMT. Although dates can vary due to public holidays, prepare for potential market volatility around this time.

What’s Included in the Non-Farm Payrolls (NFP) Report? 

There are several parts of the report that traders need to watch out for: 

1. Unemployment Rate: This is released as the percentage of the total workforce that is unemployed but actively seeking work. Its long-term average is around 5.5% and hit an all-time high during the coronavirus crisis at 14.7%.  

2. Average Hourly Earnings: Wage growth is a component of the Fed’s mandate on inflation and stable prices. Strong earnings may show economic health, whereas weak wages could signal falling consumer activity. 

3. Sector Growth: Data shows which areas of the economy are expanding or contracting month-on-month and on an annual basis. This will ultimately impact on job gains and unemployment.  

4. Revisions to Prior NFP Figures: This part of the data can often be overlooked in the excitement of the current headline print. The scale and complexity of the data means there can be large revisions. The BLS also revises the month prior to the previous, known as the two-month net revision.  

Non-farm payrolls

Why Do Non-Farm Payrolls (NFPs) Matter? 

NFPs are important as policymakers at the Federal Reserve will use all the available data to analyse the current state of the economy. Whether positive or negative, the overall number of jobs represent an essential indicator of the strength of the US economy. This helps them make decisions over future monetary policy, as employment forms one part of the central bank’s mandate.

The report contains huge insight into the labour force that could have a direct impact on policy, interest rates and future levels of economic activity. This will affect the stock market, the value of the dollar, U.S Treasuries and commodities.  

For example, a strong report may be taken as a sign of a robust economy which carries with it inflationary pressures. A series of similar data could lead to an interest rate hike, which will have repercussions for all financial markets. 

Traders should also pay close attention to the joblessness claims data, released on a weekly basis for a broader insight into the economy. This report provides an estimate of the number of individuals who filed for unemployment benefits in the previous week, offering insight into the health of the job market.

How Does Non-Farm Payrolls (NFP) Affect Forex and Trading? 

With so many investors and traders watching the data release, NFP can see sharp two-way price action. Much depends on how close the headline print is to the estimates made by analysts ahead of the announcement. This means the absolute figure isn’t as important as the expectations. 

Let’s take an example, where the Fed currently maintains a hawkish stance on policy and is looking to raise interest rates.  

NFP shows that 687,000 new jobs are created in the prior month. This doesn’t give us enough information to trade off.  

But if we know that the consensus expectation for the headline number was 400,000 new jobs created, then this is a positive upside surprise as it surpasses analyst estimates.  

  • A good NFP report, where the headline number beats expectations, revisions are strong and unemployment falls may cement a quarter point rate hike in rates. 
  • This is because the US economy is growing and should attract investment, driving up the price of the U.S dollar and growth sectors of the stock market. This will affect major forex pairs after NFP like EUR/USD, GBP/USD and USD/JPY.  
  • Other currencies which thrive in a growing global economy may also be impacted. AUD, NZD and CAD are typically attractive in this environment. Physical commodities too, should find buyers as consumers require more oil, energy and metals. 
  • On the flip side, those currencies which are risk averse and have more safe haven qualities like JPY and CHF may be sold. Other assets like gold may be shunned as their performance is not correlated to a growing economy.  

How to Trade During the Period of the Non-Farm Payrolls (NFP) Release? 

The NFP report brings with it increased volatility. This means prices can move quickly in different directions. There is also a reduction in liquidity in the lead up to the release which can makes spreads wider. 

It is generally advisable to not trade immediately after the release itself. Prices will typically whipsaw back and forth as trading algorithms test market levels and liquidity.  

There are numerous forex trading strategies that traders use after NFP. One approach is to wait for the initial knee-jerk reaction and fade the move. Another is to see if the trend continues and takes out previous support and resistance. 

The volatility that NFP creates means it is always wise to have a risk management strategy in place before you trade.  

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