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Mixed Blessing: Overall Employment Up, Tech Jobs Decline

January’s employment numbers offer some much-needed indicators of big-picture improvement over 2016. On the other hand, IT jobs took a hit in the first month of 2017.

Job growth finger lifting wooden manIt’s the first U.S. jobs report for 2017, and the number of jobs added for January comes to 227,000, a marked improvement over December’s revised but still lackluster 157,000 number.


With the monthly average for 2016 around 165,000, this is a nice start to a New Year that will hopefully bring some upward bounce to forthcoming employment tallies. More pleasingly, labor force participation is starting to increase as well, up by 0.2 percent to 62.9 percent overall.


Likewise, the total employment percentage is also creeping up and now stands at 59.9 percent. It’s clearly not a cause for celebration, but it is cause to hope that the downward or flat trends for employment growth might be giving way to a reliable continuation of the modest growth that’s characterized the labor market for the past 5 years or so.


Wage growth is also more or less flat, with a net $0.03 rise for January, half of December’s gain, and pretty negligible. Going forward, an ever-better indicator than increased workforce participation would be some heftier overall wage gains.


Where employment gains occurred, however, is something of a mixed bag. Retail trade employment was up in January by 46,000, followed by construction at 36,000, and financial activities at 32,000. Alas, two of those three sectors are far from high-paying, and none of them are terribly secure from future cuts in the wake of economic reversals.


These are not necessarily the sectors where growth augurs well for a more robust future, but there you have it. Professional and technical services grew by 23,000 in January, with 13,000 of those jobs in computer systems design and related services (something of interest to those of us who work in IT).