U.S. Jobs: Growth = Good, Unemployment = Historic Lows

The U.S. employment outlook is solidly in fist-pump territory.

With 263,000 jobs added in April, and unemployment dropping to a record-low 3.6 percent (a level not seen for 50 years), concerns raised by February's dismal jobs numbers have more or less been put to rest. In fact, April's numbers beat the 12-month trailing average of 213,000 by 19 percent, and are pretty much back in the ballpark for the past 2-to-3 years.


At the same time wages continue to claw their slow way upward. Hourly earnings, according to The New York Times, have risen by 3.2 percent over the past 12 months, which is nearly as good as any level of wage growth seen so far in the post-2008/2009 recovery.


The February numbers (originally reported at 20,000, raised in April to 33,000, and raised again in this latest report to 56,000) turn out not to have been as dire as they looked at first, too.


Where the April Job Growth Happened


As the latest employment situation summary states: "In April, notable job gains occurred in professional and business services, construction, health care, and social assistance." To be more specific, here's what we saw for those sectors therein:


Professional and business services added 76,000 jobs in April. Over the past 12 months it has added a total of 535,000 jobs, for a monthly average of under 46,000 jobs per month. April blew this away with more than 30,000 above that average (about 65 percent higher, a spike almost unheard of in these numbers).


Construction employment grew by  33,000 for April The 12-month jobs added total for this sector is 256,000, or a monthly average of 21,000 or so. April also overtopped this average by 12,000 or so (about 56 percent higher).


Health care increased by 27,000 jobs, as compared to a 12-month trailing monthly average of nearly 34,000 jobs. This sector, while always active and growing, tends to yo-yo a bit. April was something of a down month for health care (but not by a huge amount: that's a 21 percent drop).


Other sectors that grew in April included Social Services (+26,000 jobs), financial activities (+12,000 jobs), manufacturing (+4,000 jobs). Retail trade dropped by 12,000 jobs in April, with nearly offsetting losses in general merchandise outlets matched by gains in motor vehicles and auto parts dealers (-9,000 loss as compared to a +8,000 gain).


Remaining sectors: The rest of the key sectors, including mining, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, leisure and hospitality, and government showed little change over March. These sectors have been more or less flat for the past 2 years and longer, in fact.


CompTIA's Perspective on IT Employment


The latest follow-up analysis from CompTIA is reported in an early-morning press release entitled U.S. Tech Sector Hiring Stays in Positive Territory. In that document, CompTIA reports an estimated 18,900 IT jobs added in April across the entire job market.


Bright spots included technology services, custom software development, and computer systems design which together accounted for just over 14,000 of those new jobs. Search portals also showed growth (+5,200 jobs) as did computer and electronic manufacturing (+2,200 jobs), along with a modest bump in data processing, hosting, and related services (+500 jobs).


CompTIA also reports an IT unemployment rate of 2.4 percent, only two-thirds the prevailing general unemployment rate reported for April. For more details, consult the CompTIA IT Employment Tracker for May 2019 (it covers these April numbers).


The Labor Market Is Steady and Positive, But Not Stellar


Putting all the data together, it looks like the U.S. labor market will keep chugging along with decent jobs and wages growth for the months ahead. I'm surprised that the low levels of unemployment (for the overall job market in general, and for IT in particular) aren't exercising more upward pressure on hiring demands and associated wages.


This is something that may start to manifest in the next month or two, as a shrinking supply of available workers starts to force more competition amidst employers for increasingly rare and valuable human resources. Stay tuned, and we'll see how this plays out.


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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.