U.S. Employment Outlook: Stop Us If You've Heard This One Before
It's the first weekend of the month, which means there's a new employment report, but not necessarily any new information about employment. The October employment numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provide a not-so-eerie sense of d�j� vu, in that numbers haven't moved much for major indicators since August.
For the month of October, 161,000 jobs were added and overall unemployment stands at 4.9 percent, with 7.8 million counted as unemployed persons for the month. All these measures have shown little or no movement over the past calendar quarter. Call it a holding patterns, or doldrums, or a dead patch — whatever it is, we're still stuck in it.
Jobs Created Still Lags the Average for 2016
For the entire year, average job creation stands at 181,000 per month. But with revised figures of 176,000 for August and 191,000 for September, the trailing quarter average shades slightly behind that annual figure at 176,000. Thus, though we manage nicely to "keep on keeping on," there's little sign of an impending growth spurt. All you can really predict from the recent numbers and the trends they indicate is, alas, more of the same. Under these circumstances, it's pretty remarkable in fact, that the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports GDP growth for Q3 2016 of 2.9 percent, nearly double the number for Q2 (1.4 percent).
O Growth, Where Art Thou?
The leading employment sectors for growth in October feature two perennials — namely health care and professional and business services — along with the "up again, down again" sector for financial activities. Healthcare jumped by 31,000 in October, and is up by 415,000 for the past 12-month period.
Professional and business services added 43,000 jobs, and is up by 542,000 for the trailing year. Financial activities is up by a more paltry 14,000, so these three sectors account for 98,000 of the month's job count increase. The other 63,000 is spread fairly evenly over other sectors, none of which moved too much for October.
Table A-14 reports that unemployment in the "Information" sector (where tech jobs reside) is on the rise. In October 2015, 82,000 unemployed in information constituted 3 percent of that population. In October 2016, 114,000 unemployed translated into 4.1 percent.
By my calculation, that makes the total information sector size 2.73 million in 2015, and 2.78 million in 2016. Thus, though the numbers have gone up, so has the size of the sector population, if only slightly. It looks like the information sector size has increased by somewhere around 50,000 jobs.
Looks like we're in for more of the same for some time to come. If the Fed does decide to raise interest rates in December, as many economists expect them to, then these kinds of lukewarm job growth numbers can't sustain or justify a raise of more than a quarter or perhaps a half a point.
Looks like we're on track to keep heading in the same direction for some while yet�