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US January jobs data the big draw on an otherwise quiet Friday


At the end of a busy week for corporate news, the company diary is almost bare on Friday, with just FTSE 250-listed insurer Beazley PLC (LON:BEZ) the lone firm scheduled to deliver results.

But as it is the start of a new month, the first Friday does, as always, bring the key US non-farm payrolls report, so traders won’t be twiddling their fingers for too long.

This data will be the first set of jobs numbers for recently inaugurated US president Joe Biden and his team, including former Federal boss Janet Yellen, Biden’s Treasury Secretary.

On Thursday, the latest US initial jobless claims numbers saw a decline to 779,000 last week, albeit a still-historically high total that shows that a sizable number of Americans losing jobs to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Last week’s total, the third straight decline, was down from 812,000 the previous week and left the weekly figure at its lowest point in two months.

The US Labor Department’s monthly jobs report for January is expected to show a modest hiring gain of perhaps 100,000, with the unemployment rate forecast to remain at 6.7% for a third straight month.

An increase in hiring would represent a welcome improvement over December when employers cut jobs for the first time since April. Yet with the US economy still down nearly 10 million jobs from its level before last March when the coronavirus first hit, a gain of that modest size would provide little benefit for the economy.

Once COVID-19 vaccinations become more widely distributed, however, in the coming months, economists expect growth and hiring to accelerate at a better rate, particularly if Congress approves more stimulus measures for the US economy.

Significant announcements expected on Friday, February 5:

Finals: Beazley PLC (LON:BEZ)

Economic data: US non-farm payrolls, US trade balance

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