U.S. Jobs: September Stats Show Return of Slow Growth Mode
With the "new jobs added" figure at a somewhat measly 136,000 for September, and the three-month (July thru Septmeber) average at 157,000, the latest Employment Situation Summary paints a familiar profile for the U.S. economy. As I've blogged for GoCertify many times over the past decade and more, it's an exemplary rendition of slow growth mode.
That is to say that we're seeing just barely enough jobs created to soak up the influx of new workers, but not enough to really stimulate wage growth or cultivate optimism about a strong and vigorous economy. It's rather more of a ho-hum "business plods along as usual" phenomenon.
That said, the unemployment rate for September declined by 0.2 percent to hit a low not seen since 1969 (50 years ago) — a stunning 3.5 percent. Alas, wage growth inched up by just $0.04 per hour (as compared to $0.11 in August, and 2.9 percent for the preceding 12-month period, or just over $0.81 per hour). Despite record-low unemployment, there still appears to be no upward pressure on wages at all.
The View from CompTIA's Perch
Monthly, CompTIA publishes a slideshare overview that captures their analysis of the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics job report (the October version covers September's numbers). CompTIA breaks IT employment into two big groups — namely, IT occupation employment (people who work in IT jobs outside the IT sector) and IT sector employment (people who work in any kind of job in the IT sector itself).
Interestingly, employment in the IT sector shows a low and steady upward (but declining) trend for the period of record (back two years to November 2017). On the other hand, job growth waxes and wanes all the time in IT occupations, with a dip of nearly 300,000 jobs for September 2019.
What this tells me is that IT technology companies and other denizens of the IT sector are doing well, but that other sectors of the economy are all over the place. For what it's worth, the sectors that the BLS tracks in the Employment Situation Summary show that same up-and-down dynamic as well.
By IT sub-sectors, "computer, electronics, and semiconductor manufacturing" (+3,800) and "other info services, including search portals" (+2,200) account for most of the IT sector job growth that CompTIA reports for September (+5,300). Both area have been IT employment hotspots for some time now.
In terms of top 5 IT occupation job postings, "software developers, applications" (+21,100) still accounts for the vast majority of new job postings in the sector for last month (the other 4 categories combined only only add up to +14,300). But opportunities seem to be on the upswing across this particular board.
IT's a software developer's world. Source: CompTIA IT Employment Tracker (Oct. 2019)
NPR's Take Is Eerily Similar to Mine
In his coverage of the September jobs numbers, NPR host David Greene says "the job market is holding pretty steady after a week of some ominous signals of an economic slowdown." Commentator Scott Horsley observes further that employers "are still hiring but at a slower pace" that "suggests a sort of gradual deceleration, not a sharp drop in hiring."
This somewhat counters news earlier last week about (a) the second consecutive month of manufacturing output decline, along with (b) a slowing rate of annual economic growth of only 2 percent for the second quarter of 2019 (about which Horsley says "it may have been slower, still, in the third quarter, which just ended").
Horsley's take on the labor market also echoes mine when he says "it's a tight labor market but certainly not an overheating one, and that may give the Federal Reserve some breathing room to cut interest rates again later this month." And, of course, the Fed doesn't cut rates when the economy is booming, but rather, when it's on the wane.
So again, the whole thing boils down to slow growth mode, something we've seen many times since the post 2008-2009 recovery started inching its way into positive territory. How maddeningly slow will this "return to forever" be? I don't know, but the trend right now seems to be slowing not speeding up.
Keep your fingers crossed and maybe the trade wars will settle out, and growth will pick up again soon. Here's hoping!