Latest U.S. Jobs Report: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back (Again)

Blindfolded business sage reads newspaper

It's the first Friday of September, which means that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has issued its Employment Situation Summary for August. Despite encouraging revisions of the previously announced June and July figures — June's new jobs number jumped by 14,000 from 231,000 to 245,000, while July's rocketed up 30,000 from 215,000 to 245,000 — August comes in at a disappointing 173,000 net increase in jobs overall.

 

Unemployment edges down from 5.2 to 5.1 percent, with health care (up 56,000 for August and 457,000 for 2015 so far), social assistance and financial services (up 19,000 jobs for August and 170,000 for 2015) checking in as the big gainers on jobs added. Manufacturing and mining continue to bleed jobs out, while most other major sectors remain flat, including construction; wholesale trade; retail trade; transportation and warehousing; and government.

 

Increases in professional and business services continue an upward trend, adding 33,000 jobs for August, which boosts the total for 2015 to 641,000 jobs. Food services and hospitality likewise edged upward, with a net gain of 26,000 jobs for August and 248,000 jobs for the year.

 

Now comes the not-so-good news for those of you hard at work on certifications and seeking IT employment thereafter (or concurrently). The information sector is losing jobs. At this time last year, information had 131,000 total unemployed for an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent — a mark that, unfortunately, is overtopped by the current 151,000 unemployed, which translates to 5.2 percent unemployment rate.

 

This is the first time I've seen a noticeable jump in information unemployment in quite a while, along with a pretty sizable upward swing in the unemployment rate in our home sector. The size of the information workforce, as reflected in these numbers, is 2.91 million for August 2014, but just 2.903 million for August 2015, with a loss ( looking deeper into the resulting significant digits) of somewhere around 70,000 jobs in the interim.

 

That's not really much of a change in the size of the overall workforce, and seems to indicate more of a holding pattern for the sector than a true slump. There's probably not much coming soon in the way of either major retreats or advances.

 

It's also true that the bump in professional and business services — silver lining alert — argues for brighter prospects for those on the consulting side of the IT biz. Otherwise, however, we seem stuck in the same old dreary status quo that's persisted for the last three or four years now.

 

Where do we go from here? It's hard to say. With the United States continuing on a track of slow but steady growth, while China stumbles through a period of flagging growth, and Europe staggers under the weight of high unemployment and an in-migration fiasco, the auspices are pointing in all directions. Buckle up: We are officially living in interesting times, and must hope that the positive pointers can outstick the negative ones. We'll just have to wait and see what happens next.

 

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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.