U.S. Unemployment Down, Job Growth Unsurprising

Construction guys pointing at stuff

Despite private analysts estimating an spike in employment for November of around 240,000 new jobs, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' official report this morning came in at 178,000 (about 25 percent less than anticipated).


The overall unemployment rate, however, dipped to 4.6 percent. According to the Wall Street Journal, one must look all the way back to 2007 — prior to the onset of the housing crash and the ensuing "Great Recession" — to find an overall rate so low.


Alas, wage growth still remains mostly flat, with average weekly earnings up only 2 percent (or thereabouts) over the preceding 12 months. With inflation running at about 1.5 percent, that means wages are just barely keeping pace and that real earnings aren't growing much at all.


('Tis the season to be jolly.)


The winners for November included professional and business services, which added 63,000 jobs (up by 571,000 for all of 2016). Health care, a constant upward mover of late, was up by 28,000 for the month (and 407,000 for the year so far).


Construction jobs (often a sign of economic growth) are also up for the third straight month, by 19,000 jobs for November (and 59.000 jobs since September — primarily for residential construction work). Most of the other major sectors stayed fairly flat.


The information sector shows overall unemployment slightly up compared to a year ago: 115,000 out of work in November 2016 versus 111,000 out of work for November 2015. The lower number, however, represented a higher unemployment rate (4.3 percent vs. 4.2 percent). Thus, sector population was 2.58 million a year ago, and 2.74 million for November 2016.


That indicates an increase of 160,000 jobs in the sector over the previous year. This kind of jump is something information hasn't seen for quite some time and could be welcome news for IT professionals.


A closer look at the situation, based ona press release and Employment Tracker data from IT industry association CompTIA, puts jobs added in IT for November at a fairly small 1,400 jobs overall, despite a jump in IT occupation employment from 4.58 million total for October 2016 to 4.68M total for November 2016.


Ed T Figure 1 12 02 2016


CompTIA's numbers show the same level of change in IT occupation employment over the past year — namely, 160,000 jobs. In a more worrying sign, job posting numbers for IT positions continue to trend downward, something that's persisted since July of 2015 (16 months).


Thus, we find ourselves in more or less the same place we've been for the past two or three years on the IT (and general employment) front. Growth continues, but at a frustratingly slow pace.


Whether or not incoming POTUS Donald J. Trump's intentions of making our country great again by concentrating on job growth can change this incredible inertia is something that will be interesting to watch in the months and years to come.


I don't expect that this mammoth beast can be turned around in a hurry, or forced to climb much faster than it feels like it should, but we'll see. Stay tuned!


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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.