Mar 08, 2019

Putting U.S. Employment Numbers in Context – February 2019

Post by Freedom Partners

This morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the economy gained 20,000 jobs in February, a significant drop from the 311,000 jobs added in January, which was the largest monthly jobs gain in nearly a year. However, the U.S. unemployment rate decreased 0.2 percentage points to 3.8 percent, while year-over-year wages increased by 3.4 percent, matching the largest gain since April 2009 when annual wages also increased by 3.4 percent. Additionally, the rate of individuals underemployed – which incorporates those who want a job but are no longer looking for work, and those working part-time because no other work was available – dropped to its lowest since March 2001.

While hiring slowed in February, the labor market remains at its strongest in decades and highlights the benefits of enacting pro-growth policies like tax reform and continued regulatory relief. Over the past 26 months, average hourly earnings for all private sector employees rose 6.5 percent, signaling a strong turnaround for workers after years of stagnant wage growth. Additionally, the economy gained over 4.9 million jobs, at an average rate of 196,440 jobs per month, while the unemployment rate dropped 0.9 percentage points. The largest private sector job gains were seen in education and health services, as well as professional and business services.

However, tariffs on goods imported into the U.S. threaten to undermine continued job growth and the overall labor market – they are already costing businesses and consumers more. One estimate showed that nearly 36 million U.S. jobs were supported by trade in 2016. Tariffs benefit a few politically connected industries at the expense of most consumers and businesses. Lowering trade barriers will improve lives by growing the economy, increasing pay checks, and creating new and better jobs.

Below is a deeper look at the numbers from today’s report and what they say about the state of the U.S. labor market.