Economic Snapshot: The dream of the 90s is alive

Employment is up from 2014 and showing record-breaking gains, job openings are increasing and quits are on the rise. The labor market is alive and well.

Employment situation

Total nonfarm employment rose by 257,000 in January and the employment rate was 5.7 percent, little changed from the previous month but the year-over-year change in jobs was 3.21 million, the highest YOY gain since the 1990s.

Job gains occurred in retail trade, construction, health care, financial activities and manufacturing.

The number of unemployed persons was little changed in January, at 9.0 million. The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons was little changed in January at 6.8 million.

The number of long-term unemployed was essentially unchanged as well at 2.8 million but is down YOY by 828,000.

In January, 2.2 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, which is down by 358,000 from the previous year. Among the marginally attached, there were 682,000 discouraged workers, down by 155,000 YOY.


There were 5.0 million job openings on the last business day of December at a rate of 3.5 percent, little changed from 4.8 million in November but is the highest level of job openings since January 2001.

Job openings increased over the 12 months ending in December for total nonfarm, total private and government, rising in industries including professional and business services, health care and social assistance. The number of job opening increased YOU in all four regions.

Hires were at 5.1 million in December, little changed from November but at the highest level since November 2007. Over the 12 months ending in December, the number of hires increased for total nonfarm and total private.

Separations were at 4.9 million in December, little changed from the previous month by the highest level since October 2008. Within separations, the quits rate was 1.9 percent and the layoffs and discharges rate was 1.2 percent, unchanged from the previous month. Quits increased YOY for total nonfarm and total private, increasing in industries such as retail trade and the accommodation and food service industries.

Small business optimism

Small business optimism decreased 2.5 points to 97.9 in January. Economists suggest that while small business optimism fell this month, it is still operating in a somewhat “normal” zone.

Most of the decline was accounted for by expected business conditions, expected real sales and earnings. However, the increases in the index were attributed to the percent of owners reporting hard-to-fill job openings.

The percentage of owners reporting job creation fell 4 percentage points to a net 5 percent of owners. Forty-eight percent of owners reported hiring or trying to hire, which is down 6 points, but 42 reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill and 26 percent of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, up 1 percent.

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