By: Phil Ryan, JLL Research, Washington DC
After a slow January, February employment showed a healthy return to growth with 242,000 net new jobs. Unemployment remained at 4.9 percent, but total unemployment dropped to just 9.7 percent—the lowest rate since before the recession.
This drop can be attributed to fewer marginally detached workers, improved employee confidence and small-but-significant gains in the active labor force.
Industry drivers were more mixed. Professional and business services (formerly the strongest jobs contributor) was eclipsed yet again by four other industries: education, healthcare, retail trade and leisure and hospitality.
Regionally, West Coast and Sun Belt markets continue to lead jobs growth, though many leading metros have slowed slightly because job creation is difficult to sustain.
What can we expect heading into the second quarter? Steady labor gains should remain stable in the U.S. throughout much of 2016, despite increasing global uncertainty. Although, certain sectors such as energy, trade and manufacturing will be more at risk of fluctuation as a result of domestic and international demand as well as currency strength.
Current national unemployment rate: 4.9%
February 2016 net new jobs: 242,000
Current job openings: 5,607,000