Construction Continues to Add Jobs

The U.S. economy created a net of 257,000 jobs in January, which was stronger than expected, and an uptick from the relatively weak report in December.

The U.S. economy created a net of 257,000 jobs in January, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said on Friday, which was stronger than expected, and an uptick from the relatively weak report in December. And in December wasn’t as slow as previously reported, since it’s been revised upward. On the whole, the last three months have been good ones for employment–the best since before the recession–with the economy gaining an average of 336,000 workers a month over the last three months. Such a robust rate is clearly good news for both the wider economy and the real estate industry.

Some major real-estate using industries chalked up strong gains in workers. Retailers, for instance, added 46,000 positions in January, with three kinds of stores accounting for half of the new jobs—sporting goods; hobby, book and music stores (not everything in those categories is being bought from Amazon, clearly); and motor vehicle and parts dealers (with car sales burning up the rubber). Non-store retailers also hired more people during the month: 6,000 in all. Healthcare employment, which promises to be a steady driver of both jobs and space occupancy, added 38,000 for the month, with gains in doctors’ offices, hospitals and nursing homes and other care facilities. Because building is fairly brisk, construction continued to add jobs in January, for a gain of 39,000. Employment increased in both residential and nonresidential building.

The headline unemployment rate, which was 5.7 percent in January, hasn’t shown any real change since October. That’s actually a good thing, since it means that people are returning to the workforce, and employers are finding jobs for them. The BLS reported that the civilian labor force rose by 703,000 in January, with the labor force participation rate up by 0.2 percentage point to 62.9 percent, following a decline of the same amount the month before. The number of long-term unemployed, and the number of part-time workers who want to be full time but can’t, didn’t change much in January, but those numbers–a bitter legacy of the recession–have been coming down slowly since this time last year.

The missing piece of the puzzle, in terms of a sustained recovery that benefits more than the nation’s ownership class, is still wages. Things looked a little better in that regard in January, according to the BLS, but wage growth is still just ahead of the rate of inflation (puny wage growth in face of meager inflation). In January, average hourly earnings for all employees on private payrolls increased by 12 cents to $24.75, following a decrease of 5 cents in December. Compared with this time last year, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.2 percent. In January, average hourly earnings of private-sector employees increased by 7 cents to $20.80.