Final Spurt of Slow Job Growth Closes the Book on 2016
With another modest uptick in overall employment for December 2016, the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics job numbers reveal an increase of 156,000 jobs to close out the year. The unemployment rate stood at 4.7 percent, little changed from previous months.
For all of 2016, monthly job growth averaged a less-than-stellar 165,000. With December's number coming in at 9,000 less than the average for the year — and with apologies to T.S. Eliot — it's not too laughable to observe that, at least on the jobs front, 2016 went out with more of a whimper than a bang.
There is also some good news, however, in the latest report: Wages were up for 2016 by 2.9 percent as compared to 2015, which translates into average hourly earnings for all employees of $26.00 an hour, and $21.80 for private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees.
Over the past three years and more I've characterized the current pattern as "slow growth mode." That is, the economy is chugging along and making consistent and ongoing, albeit incremental, gains over time. We're not likely to set any jobs or wages growth records any time soon.
On the other hand, it does appear that the prevailing economic conditions should remain as they are (and have been) for the foreseeable future.
Perhaps with a new administration taking the helm, a shakeup at the top will stimulate more growth? It's certainly possible, although the soon-to-be-departed Obama administration certainly tried what they could to stimulate the economy and weren't able to speed this colossus up by much.
One hopes that Mr. Trump and his merry crew will do better, but one wonders at the same time if the government can really do much to accelerate such a huge collection of enterprises, businesses, and the financial and human capital that support them. Only time will tell!
CompTIA's Take on December and 2016 IT Jobs
The latest CompTIA IT Employment Tracker (January 2017) and its supporting press release take a more bullish view of the overall situation. This view, for example, focuses on the addition of 5,100 new job in December.
Likewise CompTIA states that during the fourth quarter of 2016 "a net 337,000 IT jobs were added to the economy." In CompTIA's view, that constitutes "a strong finish to the year." (This is according to CompTIA's senior VP for research and market intelligence, Tim Herbert.)
Ff you ask me, however, CompTIA's numbers do more to corroborate my view of slow but steady growth, particularly when one steps back to look at the emerging trend. That is to say, while the slope of the trend line in their IT Sector Employment graph (shown below) may be upward, it's certainly not very steep.
The percentage change from the January 2016 value of approximately 4.36 million to December's approximately 4.41 million shows an increase of 0.05 million, or 50,000 jobs in the sector. That's equal to approximately 1.15 percent growth for the year.
A more apt illustration of slow but steady growth could be hard to find, except perhaps in the chronically depressed mining and manufacturing sector.
Source: CompTIA IT Employment Tracker January 2017 (lower left quadrant)
But it's a new year, and we have new hope (and an incoming administration, for whatever that's worth) to bolster that sentiment. Perhaps this will mean that we can not only buck the trend, but do better than recent history leads us to expect.