Jobs Report and the Monthly Employment Growth Statistics

Why Only 20,000 Jobs Were Added in February

Afro-American woman in hotel
••• Photo: Izusek/Getty Images

The U.S. economy gained 20,000 jobs in February 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The weakness could be an aftershock from January's federal government shutdown.

The economy needs 150,000 new jobs each month to keep expanding. Weaker growth means the Federal Reserve will probably delay raising rates at its future 2019 Federal Open Market Committee meetings

Where the Job Growth Came From

Health care added 22,500 jobs. On average, this sector adds over 30,000 jobs a month. It remained a strong performer even during the recession. Trump's changes to health care may be dampening employers' confidence.

U.S. manufacturing only gained 4,000 jobs due to a strong dollar and Trump's trade war. A strong dollar hurts exports. Countries in a trade war impose tariffs and international trade declines. Durable goods gained 5,000 jobs. Auto manufacturing added 01,300 jobs.

Pay close attention to how many manufacturing jobs are added or lost each month. This is a significant leading economic indicator. Factories add workers as soon as they receive a large enough order. It could take months or even years before the order ships and shows up in economic output. Manufacturing is a better indicator of recession than the service sector, whose job levels remain consistent through the boom-and-bust cycle.

Financial activities gained 6,000 jobs. Banks have been adding positions since the Fed began raising interest rates. Higher rates bring greater profitability to lenders because they can charge more for loans.

Temporary help services added 5,800 jobs. Companies often add temp jobs when business is picking up, but they aren't confident enough to add full-time positions.

Leisure and hospitality gained zero jobs. The sector typically adds from 20,000 to 30,000 positions a month.

Information services added zero jobs. This sector, especially Silicon Valley, is critical to American global competitiveness. Utilities lost 300 jobs.

Industries That Lost Jobs

Construction lost 31,000 jobs. The housing market usually slows down in the colder months. It does not mean the real estate market is going to crash anytime soon.

The retail industry lost 6,100 jobs. Store managers had been slashing jobs since March 2017. Online sales have cut into bricks-and-mortar store sales. Wholesale, which usually trends with retail, gained 10,900 jobs.

The government lost 5,000 positions, even though furloughed government employees as employed.

The mining industry, which also includes the oil industry, lost 5,000 jobs. It was affected by a drop in oil prices. Excess supply from U.S. shale oil producers is lowering prices. OPEC is struggling to . As a result, future oil prices are expected to remain subdued.

Transportation and warehousing lost 3,000 jobs.

The U.S. Jobs Report Explained

The monthly jobs report is also called the "Employment Situation Summary" and the "Non-Farm Payroll Report." It's a critical economic indicator because it's the first report of the month. It's also the most comprehensive and credible.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics surveys 160,000 non-farm businesses and agencies on the number of jobs, the wages paid, and the hours worked. The jobs report will tell you which industries are adding jobs, whether American workers are working longer hours, and how fast salaries are increasing. 

The jobs report also provides the unemployment rate. To get the number of unemployed individuals, the BLS must undertake a separate survey of households instead of businesses. This household report also includes workers' age, sex, and race/ethnicity. The household survey has a more expansive scope than the establishment survey. It includes the self-employed, unpaid family workers, agricultural workers, and private household workers. They are excluded by the establishment survey. 

The household survey is not as accurate as the business establishment, though. It has a smaller sample size. That's why employment numbers are taken from the establishment survey. So the current unemployment statistics show a different trend than the jobs report.

Other Jobs Reports

There are two other jobs reports. The monthly ® is released on the first Wednesday of each month. It's produced by the ADP Research Institute, SM and Moody’s Analytics. It uses business payroll data to report on the number of jobs added in the private sector. It excludes farming, as does the BLS report. But more importantly, it also excludes government jobs, which are included in the BLS report. For that reason, it's considered incomplete.

The ADP Report is useful because it's released the Wednesday before the BLS report. It gives some analysts an earlier view of what might happen in the Friday report. ADP is quick to say it's not intended to be predictive. Like the BLS report, it's revised as more data comes in later in the month. These revised numbers are 96 percent correlated with the revised BLS jobs report. 

The Department of Labor also releases a . This measures the claims for initial unemployment benefits reported by each state every week. It also says how many of the unemployed are still receiving benefits. This report gives an indication of trends, whether there are more or less of the unemployed than the week before. The main value of this report is that it is weekly and so it gives some idea of trends between the monthly jobs reports. It isn’t accurate when predicting the monthly report because it is volatile.