September U.S. Jobs Report Offers Continued Optimism Despite Conflicting Numbers
- While U.S. employment numbers fell for the first time in seven years, the decline was anticipated due to the notable impacts of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which disrupted work and typical hiring trends in much of the South and Southeast. The leisure and hospitality industries the suffered most from the hurricanes’ impacts, losing 111,000 jobs.
- The net effects of the two hurricanes are anticipated to reduce the estimate of the total number of jobs added in September, which are expected to be revised upward. At the same time, the storms did not impact the national unemployment rate, which declined to 4.2 percent according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The improvement in the unemployment rate is believed to be driven by more people participating in the labor force.
- There were also revisions for the previous two months of employment data, which when combined showed 38,000 fewer jobs for July and August than previously reported. Taken together, September numbers showed an increase of 1.78 million jobs year over year, which is the relatively smallest increase in the last five years.
- In evaluating employment growth by sectors, positive trends emerge. While the services sector maintained solid gains, manufacturing and construction jobs have shown consistent growth over past few years, with strengths in the Institute for Supply Manufacturing surveys hitting multiyear highs in September. Following the large drop in leisure and hospitality jobs, information services (mostly media) posted a decline of 9,000 positions. The sectors with the largest gains remained consistent through this year, with transportation and warehousing adding 21,800 jobs; health care adding 13,100 jobs; and professional and business services adding 13,000 jobs.
- In addition, September’s U.S. employment report showed welcome average hourly wage growth, with a strong 0.5 percent increase, though the large drop in the lower-paying leisure and hospitality industries may have played a role. Wage growth has failed to take off during this economic expansion, and most experts attribute that to stagnant productivity growth and struggling inflation growth.
- A separate report from CompTIA, which tracks technology jobs, showed an encouraging number of IT positions, which grew by about 3,200 jobs in September. Demand was especially strong in the computer and electronic products manufacturing sector, which recorded its best month for employment in 2017, adding 3,000 jobs. In addition, the IT services and custom software development industries also showed strong increases, adding an estimated 4,200 jobs. So far in 2017, these sectors have created 106,600 net new jobs. By contrast, general IT job postings, such as software developers and IT support, were down notably, about 40,000 in September from the month before.
- In light of recent digital attacks, CompTIA’s analysis illustrates an interesting trend in strong demand for cybersecurity expertise. A website that specializes in that sector shows 300,000 job postings for cybersecurity positions over roughly the last 12 months.
Selma Hepp is Pacific Union’s Chief Economist and Vice President of Business Intelligence. Her previous positions include Chief Economist at Trulia, senior economist for the California Association of Realtors, and economist and manager of public policy and homeownership at the National Association of Realtors. She holds a Master of Arts in Economics from the State University of New York (SUNY), Buffalo, and a Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Planning and Design from the University of Maryland.