Job Growth in February On Par with a Strong January
Unemployment Rate Remains Below 5 Percent

JOB GROWTH: The economy got a boost in January with the addition of 227,000 jobs, signaling a strong start for 2017. That growth was 70,000 higher than last month and about 100,000 higher than in the prior year.

TOP INDUSTRIES: In the first month of the year, employment continued to trend up, with the biggest gains recorded in retail trade, construction and financial activities.

UNEMPLOYMENT: While not a significant change, the unemployment rate ticked up slightly for the second month in a row to reach 4.8 percent in January.

WAGES: Wages rose in January, bringing the annual average hourly increase to 2.5 percent.

WORK WEEK: The average work week remained unchanged at 34.3 hours.

TEMPORARY JOB TRENDS: An increase of 14,800 new positions was recorded in the temporary staffing sector in January, a year-over-year jump of 3.26 percent.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? The first month of the year offered positive signs for the economy, both in employment and in business investment. While the unemployment rate edged up, it did so for the right reasons as labor force participation also rose, offering clear indications that more people are searching for work. On the downside, there are still too many people not engaged in full-time employment (or actively searching for it), while continued weakness in wages does little to spur consumer spending. As compensation remains the number one driver of employee retention, employers need to step up their game to engage their best employees in other ways.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Steinberg Employment Research, Bloomberg, The Conference Board, USA Today, Staffing Industry Analysts, Fox News, CNBC, Reuters, The Business Journal

Note: This newsletter references the BLS Report of January activity, released 2/3/17.