Market Stagnant on So-So Jobs Report

The July jobs report is in, and the results were mixed. No wonder the market seems unsure of what to do today.

The U.S. economy added 163,000 private-sector jobs in July, according to payroll-processing company ADP. That’s far more than the 108,000 many economists were predicting, but less than the 172,000 jobs added in June.

Stocks had barely budged as of 3 p.m. eastern today – a sign that the better-than-expected jobs report and month-to-month drop-off basically canceled each other out.

Of course, that could change on Friday, when the Bureau of Labor unveils its nonfarm payroll statistics, which includes government jobs added and thus paints a more complete picture of America’s employment growth.

Economists are calling for a more modest 95,000-job increase in nonfarm payrolls. The unemployment rate – also out Friday – is expected to remain flat at 8.2%.

Nonfarm payrolls have only added an average of 75,000 jobs over the past three months. That’s a distinct drop-off from the previous five months, when an average of 211,000 jobs were added.

So 95,000 new jobs would actually be the highest number since March – though not exactly a return to form.

As usual, the Federal Reserve responded to the mediocre jobs numbers with familiar inaction.

The Fed decided to take no new steps to bolster the economy after holding a two-day policy meeting. Ben Bernanke and Company acknowledged that growth is slow and pledged future action if the economy doesn’t improve, but otherwise did nothing.

In other words, nothing changed. And today at least, neither has the market.

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