January jobs report: 2017 off to a good start

The January jobs report showed gains in the retail, construction and finance sectors. Plus, a steady unemployment rate could be a good thing for skilled workers.

On Feb. 3, the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics released the first jobs report of 2017. The numbers tell a very interesting story, and it's one that should make skilled job seekers perk up and listen. Last month's report showed signs of a tightening labor market as the unemployment rate dropped to a level not seen in nearly a decade. That trend continued in January, which could mean job seekers will have more leverage when negotiating for a better position.

The numbers

In total, payroll employment increased by 227,000 in January, leaving the unemployment rate at 4.8 percent. The number of long-term unemployed persons remained steady at 7.6 million. Over the last year, however, that number decreased by about 244,000.

Retail, construction and finance were the big winners in January. Check out the breakdown below:

  • Retail: In January, the retail industry added about 46,000 jobs. That figure included 18,000 jobs in the clothing sector, 8,000 in electronics, and 6,000 in furniture and home furnishings.
  • Construction: The construction industry gained roughly 36,000 jobs, 9,000 of which were in the residential building sector and 11,000 in specialty trade contractors.
  • Finance: The finance industry added about 32,000 with 10,000 in real estate and 9,000 for insurance carriers. "Our market is definitely heating up," says Eric Felice, Division Director of Beacon Hill's Financial Division in Charlotte. "We are seeing demand across the board, from entry-level operational accounting roles to managerial positions. Just within the past month, we have placed multiple staff-level accounting roles and a high-level Controller position."
  • Health care: Job creation in the health care industry was somewhat slower. About 18,000 jobs were added in January. In December, that number was over 40,000.
The construction industry saw significant employment gains.

What does this mean for skilled professionals?

The retail sector gained the most in January, and many of those positions could be part-time. Likewise, jobs in the retail sector tend to be unskilled positions. The jobs report showed that 5.8 million workers who want full-time jobs can only find part-time employment. Skilled laborers could have better luck finding jobs with a 40-hour work week, but it will still depend heavily on the industry. The manufacturing sector, for instance, is still slow to grow.

Fortune Magazine noted that wages are up by 2.5 percent over last year and that could cause the Federal Reserve to increase interest rates. The central bank had intended on slowing interest rate increases, but wage growth could force rates higher. An increase could potentially benefit workers who save their growing paychecks.

In all, the January jobs report sets a good precedent for 2017. Lower unemployment numbers could mean greater advantages for skilled job seekers still in the market.

This content is brought to you by the Marketing Team at Beacon Hill Staffing Group.

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