The economy continued to show steady employment growth by gaining an additional 235,000 new jobs for the month of February, according to a federal report Friday.
President Donald Trump entered office at a time of positive labor market growth. Former President Barack Obama oversaw the trend during his final years in office, following an irregularly prolonged economic recovery. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found in its latest jobs report that the trend continued with 235,000 new jobs.
“Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 235,000 in February, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 4.7 percent,” the report detailed. “Employment gains occurred in construction, private educational services, manufacturing, health care, and mining.“
The economy continues to show strength with a low unemployment rate. It has remained close to full employment at 4.7 percent percent. The economy still faces some lingering issues from the recession, but overall things have been trending in a good direction.
“We have a relatively healthy labor market, at least in terms measured by unemployment and job growth,” University of Southern California senior research scientist Alec Levenson told InsideSources. “We’re actually in relatively good shape from the perspective of the business cycle. We’re not in such great shape in terms of the quality of the jobs that are being created, but that’s been an issue going back about 20 years now.”
The economy has been gaining many of the new jobs in low-skilled and low-wage industries. Steady employment growth is good overall, but the quality of the jobs are an important factor. Low-quality jobs present several problems for workers including wage inequality.
“On the one hand we’ve seen pretty good, not great, but pretty good and very long lasting employment growth,” Boston University Prof. Kevin Lang told InsideSources. “At the same time we still haven’t seen much wage growth at the lower end of the distribution, and I think it’s a big question to what’s it going to take to get those wages up.”
Average wages increased by six cents and now sit at $26.09 for the month of February. Wages in recent months have shown slow but positive growth. Construction saw the most significant increase of new jobs at 58,000, followed by private educational services, manufacturing, health care, and mining.
“It’s not just wages, in terms of the average wage growth,” Levenson said. “The problem we’ve had, which goes back 30 years, is that we continue to see a lot of growth among the higher paying jobs, but not a lot of growth in compensation among the jobs that are in the middle and towards the bottom.”
The labor force participation rate is another factor that shows the economy still facing lingering problems. It tracks the number of employed and those actively seeking work as a percentage of the total population. The participation rate factors in those who have suffered long-term joblessness.
“Our real unemployment is anywhere from 18 to 20 percent,” Trump said at the start of his campaign. “Don’t believe the 5.6. Don’t believe it.”
The participation rate has been in decline for a number of decades. The last recession, however, caused it to drop dramatically in the years since. The participation rate has leveled over the last year, but has failed to regain those losses. The participation rate now sits at 63.0 percent percent.
“It might not be getting worse, but its certainly isn’t getting better, and that’s the basic problem,” Levenson said. “What we do know is, when we have faster economic growth overall, that tends to benefit the people who are shut out of the labor market the most.”
Levenson warns some of the policies being discussed by the new administration could hurt that growth. A large population of retirees and student adults can be blamed for much of the decline. Nevertheless, there are still a concerning number of working age adults that are not in the labor force.
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) last year showed a positive increase after being stuck around one percent. GDP tracks the total dollar value of all goods and services produced over a specific time period. The stock market has shown positive growth as well. Gallup also found economic confidence is at a nine year high.
“There is an element of truth to the rising tide lifts all boats,” Lang said. “But it’s also the case that we’ve had tremendous GDP growth over the last, you can choice your time period, but certainly over the last 45 years, and we haven’t seen that trickle down very much.”
Republicans are working on a tax plan aimed at promoting economic growth. The current blueprint is designed to simplify the tax code while also lowering taxes for upper and middle-income earners. Even some supporters of the plan, however, are concerned with provisions like the border adjustment tax.
Trump has promised to protect domestic workers from unfair foreign competition to keep jobs in the country and encourage corporations to stop parking profits overseas. He has primarily focused on trade and immigration. Nevertheless, there is concern that too much economic protectionism could cause problems, even for the domestic workers it’s meant to help.
The jobs report is usually released on the first Friday of the month, but is rare circumstances it’s not. The report might sometimes he held for a week if the first Friday immediately follows a particularity short month. February is the shortest month of the year, and the first Friday was on the third.
The jobs report does not include farm workers, private household employees or nonprofits.