The September jobs report is high stakes after a tough week for investors

US job growth has held up amid increasing recession fears. But in recent months, there have been signs that it’s slowing — raising the stakes for this morning’s jobs report for September.

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A surprisingly weak reading from the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index has already heightened Wall Street’s blood pressure. Fears of a spillover into the wider economy were reinforced Thursday when the ISM said its non-manufacturing index, which measures activity among service providers such as banks, restaurants and hotels, fell to its lowest level since August 2016.

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Feeding concerns: A disappointing report on private sector employment from payrolls company ADP. The sell-off tied to the ISM data deepened after the firm said 135,000 private sector jobs were added in September. That’s 5,000 fewer jobs than had been expected. August numbers were also revised lower.

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“Businesses have turned more cautious in their hiring,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said in a statement released by ADP. “If businesses pull back any further, unemployment will begin to rise.”

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The ADP miss only heightens attention on the September US jobs report, which posts at 8:30 a.m. ET. Economists surveyed by Reuters expect non-farm payrolls — jobs added excluding agriculture and private household workers — to rise by 145,000. That’s higher than last month’s increase of 130,000, and the US unemployment rate is forecast to hold steady at 3.7%. These numbers are still solid.

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But investors will certainly be scrutinizing the data for any signs of weakness — especially in manufacturing — or seasonal trends that mask underlying softness.

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One example: Bank of America Merrill Lynch points out that, just as in August, the nonfarm payroll figure will likely be buoyed by the hiring of temporary census workers.

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Once the jobs report hits, expect conversation to shift toward two topics: the strength of the American consumer, and what the data means for the Federal Reserve.

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“Markets are clearly spooked about the state of the US economy and worried that Friday’s jobs report will disappoint,” said Nicholas Colas, co-founder of DataTrek Research. “Fair enough: Job growth has been slowing and there have been two prints below 100K just this year.”

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But, he points out, “no matter what Friday’s report may show, the US consumer is still in decent shape.”

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About the Fed: Société Générale said earlier this week that it expects the another interest rate cut in October or December. The quality of the jobs numbers, it said, could dictate the timing.

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Business can’t wait for politics to fix itself

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Here’s a dispatch from our CNN Business colleague Julia Chatterley in New York. Julia presents a daily markets show, “First Move,” at 9 a.m. ET on CNN International.

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“This month, as anyone in New York traveling by car will tell you, the UN General Assembly came to town. The annual event invigorates and paralyzes the city in equal measure.

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In a way, it’s a metaphor for the relationship between business and government. This year’s UNGA week was a near perfect encapsulation of the sclerotic nature of politics in 2019. Take your pick from a US impeachment inquiry, constitutional mayhem in the UK over Brexit, the 17th weekend of protests in Hong Kong — and that’s before we even get to anything like actual policymaking.

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But while politicians argue themselves into inertia, business lacks the luxury of waiting for resolutions. They must make money, report earnings, pay workers, make investment decisions and innovate for the future. In short, they need to get on with it.

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As a reporter in Italy, CEOs would often tell me they simply carried on regardless. It’s a skill that businesses now have to hone elsewhere in the world, too.

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From the environment to infrastructure, via healthcare and education, business is leaning into the issues, even if that also brings controversy. It is as though companies have moved from working with or around government policy to actively insuring against it, simply because they can’t afford to miss the boat.

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Amazon is, if you’ll pardon the pun, a prime example. CEO Jeff Bezos recently announced his company was “done being in the middle of the herd on this issue,” hauling the behemoth out in front of the pack by announcing it would be carbon neutral by 2040, a full decade before the deadline scientists have suggested in order to avert a fully-fledged climate catastrophe.

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Such a decision is partly born of cold pragmatism. Amazon knows its customers and employees want and expect it to play its part. But this is a broader trend in which business is reflecting society’s direction perhaps faster and more accurately than the politicians.”

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India’s slowdown is getting worse

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India’s economic slump is getting worse, and the country’s central bank is worried, writes our CNN Business colleague Rishi Iyengar in New Delhi.

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The Reserve Bank of India on Friday cut its key interest rate for the fifth time in a row, taking it to its lowest level in almost a decade. The central bank also slashed its forecast for growth in Asia’s third biggest economy this year to 6.1% from 6.9.%.

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“The bad news of a cooling manufacturing sector was compounded by an outright services downturn in September. As a result, private sector output in India contracted for the first time since February 2018,” said Pollyanna de Lima, Principal Economist at IHS Markit.

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India’s gross domestic product growth plummeted to 5% in the June quarter, its slowest rate in six years. The government has been scrambling since to cut taxes and spur lending to stem the slowdown.

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Wall Street is going to shrink — a lot

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Headcount for Wall Street and the US banking industry could slip by 200,000 in the next decade, according to a recent report from Wells Fargo. That would be the biggest reduction for the sector in history.

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What’s to blame? Well, Wells Fargo points out that banks are spending $150 billion per year on technology, more than any other industry. Hello, automation.

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The bank predicts that tech spend is going to eat into into back office jobs, branch jobs, call center jobs, capital markets jobs and corporate jobs. The main exceptions: jobs related to tech, selling, advising or consulting.

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Up next

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The September US jobs report is the day’s big event. It arrives at 8:30 a.m. ET.

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Also today:

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  • Details on the US trade balance for August also post at 8:30 a.m. ET.
  • Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell speaks a conference in Washington at 2 p.m. ET.

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Coming next week: US inflation data, plus the minutes from the last Fed meeting.

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