March 10, 2017 – Employers added 235,000 jobs last month as the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent, according to the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report. During the month, the number of workers unemployed also dropped to 7.5 million. February marked the 75th straight month of job growth in the U.S. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected the nation to add 200,000 jobs in the first full month of Donald J. Trump’s presidency.
Consumer and business confidence have surged in the wake of President Trump’s election victory last November. The president has pledged to dramatically accelerate the pace of job growth and oversee the creation of 25 million new jobs in the next decade. By comparison, the U.S. has added 15.5 million jobs since 2010, a mark that includes significant catch-up from the mass layoffs of the financial crisis.
Where Job Growth Occurred
During the month, job growth took hold in a number of broad industries. Here’s a look at some of the most important key sectors:
- Construction employment increased by 58,000, with gains in specialty trade contractors (+36,000) and in heavy and civil engineering construction (+15,000). Construction has added 177,000 jobs over the past six months.
- Employment in private educational services rose by 29,000 in February, following little change in the prior month (-5,000). Over the year, employment in the industry has grown by 105,000.
- Manufacturing added 28,000 jobs in February. Employment rose in food manufacturing (+9,000) and machinery (+7,000) but fell in transportation equipment (-6,000). Over the past three months, manufacturing has added 57,000 jobs.
- Healthcare employment rose by 27,000 in February, with a job gain in ambulatory healthcare services (+18,000). Over the year, health care has added an average of 30,000 jobs per month.
- Employment in mining increased by 8,000 in February, with most of the gain occurring in support activities for mining (+6,000). Mining employment has risen by 20,000 since reaching a recent low in October 2016.
- Employment in professional and business services continued to trend up in February (+37,000). The industry has added 597,000 jobs over the year.
- Retail trade employment edged down in February (-26,000), following a gain of 40,000 in the prior month. Over the month, job losses occurred in general merchandise stores (-19,000); sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores (-9,000); and electronics and appliance stores (-8,000).
- Employment in other major industries, including wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, leisure and hospitality, and government, showed little or no change over the month.
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Business has been, generally-speaking, quite good for the human capital sector, and particularly so for executive recruiters. “Since the new year started we’ve put out more proposals in the first two months than at any time since we started in 2009,” said Robert A. Foster, president of executive search firm Foster & Associates. “I don’t know whether this is the excitement over the Trump agenda but people seem to be very positive.”
Candidates that he and his recruiters have spoken to from all over the country, not just the hottest markets like Dallas, have largely been bullish about the economy as well. Mr. Foster’s firm serves a wide range of businesses, including industrial, insurance, technology, consumer, pharmaceuticals, and financial services, and he sees that enthusiasm across the board.
Among the factors to consider, Mr. Foster said, is the housing market. Housing prices obviously have gone up since the recession ended. With the improved economy, people are finally able to move forward and accept new positions.
People Are Mobile Again
“You had a lot of people whose houses were under water, and that made it hard for them to leave their jobs, especially since companies have become less inclined to buy executives’ homes except of those professionals at the highest levels,” he added. “I think the enthusiasm about the economy has helped to make people more mobile. It can be hard to move from one place to another if your house is under water. And though this might be a smaller factor, I do think it’s a factor.”
Since the recession, Mr. Foster said, companies had been holding back to a certain degree, but that has begun to change. “There was pent up demand,” he said. “People were holding back. They feel good enough about what’s happening with the economy now.”
Still, the Great Recession was less than a decade ago and few have forgotten it. “It’s fragile,” Mr. Foster said of the enthusiasm that marks the current economic situation. “People’s enthusiasm can wane pretty quickly if the Trump growth agenda gets bogged down. And that could easily happen.” Over time, he said, people have been cautiously optimistic. “But I would say the ‘cautiously’ piece has gone away, and that’s what’s driving the search market.”
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor — Hunt Scanlon Media