U.S. companies are putting the brakes on hiring, according to the government. A modest 136,000 jobs were added in September 2019. But these jobs helped set the unemployment rate at a 50-year record low of 3.5%. Imagine 100 adults sitting in your church or watching your soccer game. Only three or four of them are looking for a job. That sounds great, doesn’t it?
Times are good for businesses, so most people who want a job now have one. A very low unemployment rate is a blessing. It has calmed concerns about the economy creeping toward a recession.
But slower hiring is challenging the economy too. Low unemployment can make it hard to find qualified candidates. Many with skills and experience are already happily employed elsewhere. Lower-paying positions as well as seasonal openings also suffer when unemployment is very low. People are quick to leave those positions for greener pastures.
When it is clear sailing, people give thanks. But what else do they do? They start to scan the horizon. Are those storm clouds headed in our direction? Businesses have been reducing their investment spending. Uh-oh. Global growth is stable, but not rapid. Uh-oh. Right now, manufacturing (making new goods) is the weakest sector of the U.S. economy. Spending is down. Layoffs are up. Overseas demand for U.S. exports has fallen sharply. Worries over trade wars are ever present. Factory activity is at its lowest level in over 10 years. Retail is in a similar predicament.
On the sunny side, two sectors still had big job gains, however. Healthcare added 41,000 jobs—likely due to a population that is living further into old age. Professional and business services added 34,000 jobs—a solid number.
Why do we care about the number of people working? Americans worry about financial security. But as long as people have jobs, they will keep spending. That spending in turn keeps the economy moving forward.
Try that again. Why do we care about people working? Because labor has dignity. God created people to work—to participate in His creation. It is good for people to share their skills, services, and creations in the marketplace. Commerce is good for those close to us—our families, neighbors, and churches. But work is also good for people far away. Every job has its small part to play in a global economy of business and trade.