U.S. Jobs: Booming and Backsliding

U.S. job growth has taken some confusing twists and turns in recent weeks.

Hey! Guess what? Another month with a jobs created number in excess of 300,000 hit in January. Unmployment also edged up to 4 percent, alas, thanks in part to the partial government shutdown. What makes the numbers truly puzzling, however, is the impact crater in the latest report where December's transcendent tally used to be.


Whereas the November jobs-added figure jumped from 176,000 to 196,000 (a 20,000 gain), December's total plummeted from a hefty 312,000 to a less-than-stellar 222,000 (a 90,000 plummet). That puts job gains at about 241,000 per month for the trailing three-month period.


It comes as something of a disappointment, too, because it's been a few years since we had two or more months with 300,000 jobs added that stood the tests of time and revision. I'm not sure how it happens that numbers can be off by 30 percent from one month to the next, but I'd be a lot happier if the shift had been upward instead of the other way.


Where Growth Happened in January


According to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, here's where the job growth happened last month:


? Leisure & hospitality was up by 74,000 jobs, with 37,000 of that in food services and drinking places, and another 32,000 in amusements, gambling and recreation.
? Construction rose by 52,000 jobs in January, with nonresidential (+19,000), residential (+15,000), heavy and civil engineering construction (+10,000) and residential building (+9,000).
? Professional and business services increased 30,000 jobs.
? Transportation and warehousing was up by 27,000 jobs.
? Retail trade employment grew by 21,000 jobs.
? Manufacturing bumped up by 13,000 jobs.
? Mining rose slightly by 7,000 jobs.


Employment in other sectors was little changed over previous months, including in our home sector of information. Wages rose by $0.03 to an average of $27.56 per hour, with earnings up by $0.85 per hour over the past 12-month period.


That's 3.2 percent growth, somewhat ahead of inflation (1.9 percent for the 12-month period ending in December 2018). Little by little, step by step, things do seem to be improving.


CompTIA's Take on the January Numbers


CompTIA has a somewhat rosier take on IT-related job action than the Feds do. Their Feb. 1 press release reports an estimated 11,200 IT-related jobs added in January, with 7,000 of those jobs in the services and software category alone.


New IT hiring also grew in the data processing realm, as well as in hosting and related services, to the tune of 3,100 jobs added; in computer and electronic product manufacturing (+2,700 jobs); and in other information services, including search portals (+400 jobs). By contrast, telecom shed 2,000 jobs in January.


Here again, the signs are pointing upward, but not at a terribly steep angle. While any growth is good growth, we don't appear poised for rockets to take off any time soon. Let's hope that the slope of the curve keeps its monotonously upward tilt!


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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.