Nary a Ripple in Employment Growth Last Month
Unemployment Again Downshifts Below 4.0 Percent
JOB GROWTH: February hiring, though positive at 20,000 new jobs, was unimpressive in comparison to especially strong hiring in the two previous months.
TOP INDUSTRIES: Hiring trended most positively in professional and business services, healthcare and wholesale trade, while construction employment decreased in February.
UNEMPLOYMENT: The unemployment rate, which had been rising in small increments over the past two months, reversed itself in February, dropping back to 3.8 percent.
WAGES: Hourly earnings again trended up, resulting in an increasingly healthy average annual rate of 3.4 percent.
WORK WEEK: The average work week decreased slightly in February to 34.4 hours.
TEMPORARY JOB TRENDS: Modest growth in the temporary jobs sector of 5,800 jobs in February came as good news following revised figures for January that indicated contraction in the sector.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? Employment activity in the month of February was clearly weak, as though in a state of hibernation. The bright spots: unemployment improved, as did wage growth. Economists note that February stats may reflect some lingering effects from the partial government shutdown as well as severe winter weather. Is this month’s jobs report an anomaly or the start of a downward trend? There is no way to tell, without several months of data on hand to form a clearer picture. In the meantime, employers continue to face severe talent shortages and increasing pressure to bolster their employment value proposition with both monetary and other enhancements.
This newsletter references the BLS Report of February activity, released 3/8/19.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Steinberg Employment Research, CNBC, MSNBC, National Review, Staffing Industry Analysts, Bloomberg, Seeking Alpha, Counterpunch, MarketWatch, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, USA Today