If the U.S. economy is slowing (and it is), it may take some time for that slowdown to show up in monthly employment data. It is an economic reality that job gains lag an economic pickup. As the economy has slowed, employment has been stubborn to stumble.
But after a market blip, companies understandably are reluctant to add to their payrolls quickly. They are busy squeezing productivity out of their current staff, hoping to recover any lost profits. It's only when they are confident their business is sturdy and sustainable that they take the risk to add costs and hire new workers.
In the week ahead, investors will learn if hiring in January mirrored the general economic slowdown as 2016 began. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta runs a real-time running calculation of the American economy. Instead of an economic forecast, the bank calls it a "nowcast." In late December through last week, the "now" wasn't good. The model pegged the nation's gross domestic product growth below 1 percent.
This is the economic chill employers have encountered this month after adding an average of 280,000 new jobs in each of the last three months of last year, which ended with the best two-year stretch of job gains in almost two decades.
But the markets look ahead. Investors are more interested in the uncertainty of the future than the clarity of the present.
Tom Hudson, financial journalist, hosts "The Sunshine Economy" on WLRN-FM in Miami, where he is the vice president of news. Follow him on Twitter@HudsonsView.