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HFF BLS Employment Report February 2016

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

HFF is pleased to report on the latest employment expansion statistics from February 2016 and a look back at 2015. Our research team analyzes trends and data to give readers a better view into the current state of the economy and how employment is being affected.

Employment Expansion

U.S. job growth rebounded in February with employers adding a higher than expected 242,000 jobs. The prior two months were revised up by 30,000. No wage growth last month could keep the Fed from rising rates until at least midyear. Additionally, private-sector hiring also jumped unexpectedly in February. The ADP report shows that private payrolls in the U.S. rose by 214,000 in February. It is important to note ADP’s report highlighted strong job growth across companies of all sizes last month.

Employment Expansion February 2016

Job and Payroll Growth

Current expansion cycle is similar to 1991 to 2000 and greater than the 2004 to 2007 expansionary period, but only after a significantly delayed recapture of the nation’s previous employment peak.

Average Monthly Payroll Creation Feb. 2016

The U.S. created 2.7 million jobs in 2015, the second highest level of expansion since 1999. The last five years’ job growth is on par with the expansionary period from 1992 to 1995.

Job Growth Feb. 2016

Quality of Job Growth

Job growth quality has remained a persistent concern during the recovery due to lagging wage growth and a concentration of job gains in low-paying sectors. In 2015, the U.S. created 2.7 million jobs. But nearly 43 percent of private-sector job gains came from construction, manufacturing, retailers, hotels, restaurants and temporary help agencies, all typically low-paying sectors.

Quality of Job Growth Feb. 2016

Combined, Retail Trade (339,000) and Leisure and Hospitality (446,000) created approximately 785,000 jobs in the year ended February 2016, accounting for some 29 percent of the headline growth nationwide. Retail Trade accounts for 72 percent of the headline Trade, Transportation and Utilities growth. Given Wholesale Trade (51,700) and Transportation/Warehousing (68,000) account for the remaining share, we can assume continued broad-based growth in the Retail and Industrial property types as we progress deeper into the economic recovery. Professional Business Services, the industry sector most closely aligned with office using employment, experienced expansion of 610,000 jobs in the year ended February 2016.

Quality of Job Growth Analysis Feb. 2016

Construction, Manufacturing, Retail Trade, Temporary Staffing, Other Services and Government, each shaded in the table above, accounted for 831,000 new jobs in the year ended February 2016. This equates to ~31 percent of headline growth. The greater contribution of full-time positions within Professional & Business Services portends corporations’ greater confidence in the sustainability of their profitability.

Fortunately, Temporary Staffing only accounted for 86,000 (~14 percent) of these positions. Temporary Staffing remains stubbornly high, however, the share has decreased in recent months. Education and Health Services, which has performed well throughout the downturn being a recession-resistant industry, expanded by 698,000 jobs in the year ended February 2016, the highest of any major employment sector. Mining and Logging has turned negative from eight months prior and retail continues to account for more headline trade. These potentially worrisome trends are offset by the decrease in temporary staffing.

Quality of Job Growth Changes Feb. 2016

Current Jobless Claims

Though it required a protracted period of time, trends in Jobless Claims have returned to favorable territory. Initial Claims are at last, and predictably, below 300,000 per week. Continuing Claims are also finally below 2,300,000 per week. Therefore, layoffs appear to have stabilized to more historically average levels.

Weekly Initial and Jobless Claims Feb. 2016

Jobless Claims vs. Unemployment Rate

Initial Claims, an alternative representation of layoffs, are slowly beginning to tick up but are still well below the 47-year average of 364,896. The Unemployment Rate typically declines at a slower pace than Initial Claims for unemployment benefits. As stated previously, the level of "bounce" in monthly payroll expansion is on par with the 2004 to 2007 era, but has not proven fast enough to recapture such a significant drop in employment. Retiring employees and the discouraged unemployed are leaving the labor force, reducing the denominator in the equation of the Unemployment Rate dramatically.

Jobless Claims vs. Unemployment Rate Feb. 2016

Unemployment Rate

The Underemployment Rate augments the Unemployment Rate to include anyone marginally attached to the Labor Force that is either not employed or employed only part time. Fortunately, the Underemployment Rate is descending from a recent high of just over 17 percent. However, the spread between the two rates is near an all-time high and shows no sign of rapid compression.

Unemployment Rate Feb. 2016

Wage Growth

As the labor force approaches “full employment,” much attention is being cast to wage growth. The past three recessions were preceded by a period of FOMC tightening. Average hourly earnings growth approached ~4.4 percent in each of these periods before recessionary forces prevailed. With the current year over year percent wage growth registering 2.2 percent, one could argue wage growth is not yet adversely impacting the broader economy. The weak wage performance, declining 0.1 percent from the prior month, should leave the Fed on hold at its meeting this month.

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