Good News for IT Employment: Latest Federal Jobs Report Reveals Continued Growth of U.S. Economy

Businesswoman holding Up-like balloons follows rising trajectory

It's the first Friday of the month, and that means the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics unleashed the February employment numbers this morning. Overall employment jumped by 295,000, which is tantalizingly close to the magic 300,000 mark that most economists believe suffices to get the long-term unemployed and underemployed back to full-time participation in the workforce.

 

Cross your fingers that we move past (and stay above) that threshold for the rest of 2015. While other indicators are pointing up, nothing is really exploding. The unemployment rate edged down to 5.5 percent for last month, but long-term unemployment counts (2.7 million) and labor force participation (62.8 percent) remain basically unchanged. Average hourly earnings also stayed pretty flat at $24.78, thought that is up by 2.0 percent since February 2014. Things continue to improve, but at a snail's pace.

 

The biggest job gains occurred in food services and drinking establishments, which added 59,000 jobs in February. New professional and business services jobs followed in second place with a net gain of 51,000 for the month (the sector is up a whopping 660,000 jobs since February 2014, making it one of the best gainers over the past year).

 

Construction added 29,000 jobs, while the ever-growing health care sector added 24,000 positions. Other gainers included transportation and warehousing (19,000) and retail (32,000). Only mining reported job losses, though manufacturing didn't gain as much as it has of late (8,000) because of the gasoline refinery strike now underway.

 

Information, where you and I butter our bread, shows a drop in unemployment in the sector from 145,000 in February 2014 to 130,000 last month. The size of the information workforce hasn't changed much, though, with those numbers translating into 3,020,080 information workers at the end of February 2014, and 2,890,000 in February 2015.

 

I didn't think the sector was losing jobs, but those numbers suggest job losses of 130,000 or thereabouts over the last year. Because these are the numbers in the survey that I track most closely, I've noticed that they tend to bounce up and down somewhat, probably owing to the rounding in the unemployment rates reported necessary to show them at the tenth-percentage point of precision.

 

A one-tenth percentage point swing in the numbers makes a big difference: For example, changing the rate from 4.2 to 4.1 percent increases the workforce size to 3,171,000 or thereabouts, which changes the job loss of 130,000 to a gain of 150,000. That's why I have to remind myself (and my readers) to take these numbers with a grain of salt.

 

Overall, most IT insiders and industry analysts remain optimistic about job growth in the field for 2015. I'm inclined to agree with them, not only because of their more ebullient outlook for their own companies (the IT insiders) and the industries or markets they follow (the industry analysts).

 

I'm also a firm believer that the adage "a rising tide floats all boats" applies to the overall economy as well, so that growth across the board inevitably also adds headcount to IT. As the months unfold, we'll find out whether this optimism is warranted. For the moment, however, even though we're still in slow growth mode, I'm inclined to concentrate more on the fact that growth is consistently taking place, rather than on how slowly it's proceeding!

 

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About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at www.edtittel.com, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.