Up and away

Seven of the most important, but least viewed, charts on US jobs

June 7, 2013
June 7, 2013

The US monthly jobs report invariably commands attention from economy-watchers, and everybody knows today’s report was pretty good. Though unemployment rose slightly to 7.6%, some 175,000 new jobs were created during May. You can see our charts on the main trends here and here.

But there are some other numbers about jobs that rarely get looked at, yet tell us some important things about the state of play in US employment markets. Here they are.

Average private sector work week

The average number of hours worked usually rises when the economy is getting stronger. It stood still this month at 34.5 hours. But look how much it has improved since the worst of the crisis.

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Oil and gas jobs

Like it or not the shale gas boom has been a major job creator over the last few years. Roughly flat over the last couple of months, but still.

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Average manufacturing work week

Factory employees are turning in some of the longest work weeks since World War II. That’s bodes well for future hiring, as companies won’t be able to squeeze that much more out of workers. Here are the most recent numbers.

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And here’s the historical look.

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Construction jobs

After a slight decline in April they bounced back with 7,000 new jobs in May. Not huge, but hanging in there, reflecting the rebound in US housing.

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US retail jobs

Sure, these aren’t always the most highly paid jobs in the world. But when stores are hiring, it suggests that employers are clearly seeing consumer demand. And with consumer activity accounting for roughly 70% of GDP, that’s a good thing.

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Mortgage brokers are coming back

Technically, this number lags a bit. But through April you can see that job growth among loan brokers, which includes mortgage brokers, has stayed strong. That’s a sign that banks want to issue more mortgages. And since housing is such an important part of the economy, this is not something to be dismissed. (These numbers aren’t seasonally adjusted, for the record.)

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