U.S. Jobs: Looking Back at 2018, Ahead to 2019

The IT economy appears to be in good shape heading into 2019.

On the face of things, 2018 came to a better conclusion than expected. The U.S. economy added 312,000 jobs in December. Even better, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also upped its counts for both October (+37,000, to 274,000) and November (+21,000, to 176,000).


That produces a respectable three-month trailing average for job growth of 254,000 jobs. Not bad, not bad at all. Even though unemployment grew by 0.2 percent in December, it's still at 3.9 percent which is very much in what labor economists see as the "full employment" range (anything under 4-to-4.5 percent).


So where did December's growth go, if not to IT? (Alert: It did not go to IT.) Healthcare jumped by 50,000 jobs, but averaged under 29,000 jobs per month for 2018, so that was a nice bounce. Food services jumped by 41,000 jobs, against average monthly growth of under 20,000 jobs for the year. Another nice bounce.


Construction was up by 38,000 jobs, against an annual average of slightly more than 23,000 jobs. Yet another bounce, though not as high as the two preceding. Manufacturing gained 32,000 jobs, against an annual average of slightly more than 17,000 jobs monthly. As you'd expect for a holiday shopping month, retail trade was up (by 24,000 jobs against a less than 8,000 monthly average for 2018). A big, though inevitable, bounce.


Professional and business services remains a perennial gainer, up by 43,000 jobs for December, with an monthly average of nearly 49,000 jobs across all of 2018. That's a drop, if only a slight one. Everybody else — mining, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities and government — was flat for December, or so says the U.S. BLS.


So What's CompTIA's Read?


The CompTIA press release and employment tracker for December 2018 tell a mostly positive, if less-thrillin-than-elsewhere-in-the-economy, story for IT.


The press release claims a net gain of 6,000 IT jobs in December, less than the job growth they found for October and November preceding. What IT-related hiring occurred in December, according to CompTIA, was mostly in computer and electronic manufacturing (+3,600 jobs) and IT services, custom software and computer system design (+2,200 jobs) to make up the bulk (5,800) of the IT jobs added.


They also report that the number of core technology jobs dropped by an estimated 18,000 jobs for December, offset by gains in technology jobs outside the core (CompTIA distinguishes these areas as "IT sector employment" as the core, and "IT occupation employment" outside the IT sector itself). IT job postings (which cover both categories) also dropped for December. "Good, but not great," seems a fair summary of CompTIA's take.


Where is 2019 Going, IT-jobs Wise?


With IT unemployment at only 2.1 percent, and general unemployment likewise at a low 3.9 percent, it's not silly to believe that the 2019 IT employment outlook is good. The economy is growing and that means new jobs will have to be created. With IT unemployment as low as it is, that means new jobs will have to bring in new people, too.


We're also seeing a recent increase in wages, and that too, bodes well for job growth and increasing opportunities across the board. The tide that floats all employment sectors should hopefully float more IT jobs, too. Barring unforeseen slowdowns or other unpleasant surprises, 2019 looks like a good year for IT workers, and for those who employ them.


Cross your fingers!


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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.