Job Market Update: February 2016 

Following December’s impressive numbers, January 2016 saw a significant fewer amount of jobs gained. While the gain of 151,000 jobs in January is still progress, it is not nearly as strong as previous months. The unemployment rate was slightly changed at 4.9 percent.

Revisions to last year’s reports caused minor changes to the over-the-year change in total nonfarm employment for 2015, rising from +2.6 million to +2.7 million.
While the number of jobs added was steady, the unemployment rate (4.9 percent) and the number of unemployed persons (7.8 million) remained stagnant. Year-over-year, however, the number of unemployed persons is down by 0.8%, or 1.1 million to be specific.

  • Long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27+ weeks) – 2.1 million, remaining unchanged
  • Civilian labor force participation rate – 62.7 percent, slightly changed from last month
  • Employment-population ratio – 59.6 percent, little changed over the month but up 0.3 percent since October

The number of persons employed part-time for economic reasons (involuntary part-time workers) had no change at 6.0 million in January. Additionally, the number of persons marginally attached to the labor force (jobless people who wanted and had looked for a job in the past 12 months) has fallen by 300,000 since December.
Last month the number of discouraged workers (persons not currently looking for work as they think there are no jobs available) improved to 623,000 in January, dropping 40,000 from December. This is virtually unchanged from a year earlier.

After a decrease in the average hourly earnings for all employees last month, January saw a 12-cent increase, bringing the average to $25.39. Average hourly earnings have risen by 2.5% in the past year. The average hourly wage for private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees saw a slight increase to $21.33 with an 11-cent increase. 

Sectors most responsible for the increased jobs gains are: retail trade, food services and drinking places, health care and manufacturing.

  • Professional and business services added 9,000 jobs since December, bringing its January total to 19.9 million.
  • Health care added 36,800 jobs, bringing its January total to 15.3 million jobs.
  • Retail trade added 57,700 jobs since December, totaling 15.8 million jobs.
  • Food services and drinking places added 46,700 jobs, bringing its January total to 11.26 million jobs.
  • Mining jobs dropped by 6,600 in January, making January’s total 706,800 jobs.
  • Manufacturing added 29,000 jobs, bringing its January total to 12.3 million jobs.

Essentially unchanged in December were construction, wholesale trade and government.

In Your Industry

Below are some key sector highlights from the BLS “The Employment Situation – January 2016" report:


This sector saw a gain of 9,000 jobs in January, resulting in a total of +19.9 million jobs. While a few of the sub-sectors saw declines, the top performing sub-sectors included: Professional and Technical Services (+25,300), Accounting and Bookkeeping Services (+5,800) and Advertising and Related Services (+4,100).


This sector saw a gain of 57,700 in January, a significant jump from last month’s 4,300 job increase. Its biggest sub-sector gain was General Merchandise Stores with a gain of +15,400 jobs. Other notable gains include: Electronics and Appliance Stores (+8,600) Department Stores (+13,200) and Clothing and Accessories Stores (+13,300). Miscellaneous Store Retailers saw a decrease this month(-5,300).


The healthcare industry added 36,800 jobs in January. This sector witnessed strong growth and added over half a million jobs in 2015. Two of its sub-sectors continue their own steady growth, including: Ambulatory Health Care Services with an increase of 10,700 jobs and Social Assistants adding 7,200 jobs. The Hospitals sub-sector also added a significant number of 23,700 jobs. Sub-sector losses included: Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories (-3,700) and Offices of Dentists (-1,500).


The sector had an increase of 44,000 jobs in January. Sub-sector Accommodation and Food Services saw a jump of 48,800 jobs. Food Services and Drinking Places remains strong, with a growth of 46,700 jobs from December to January. Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation experienced a decrease of -5,100.


This sector showed a gain of 29,000 jobs in January. Modest losses and gains were seen across the sector. Job gains include: Fabricated Metal Products (+6,500) and Transportation Equipment (+4,100). Job losses include: Apparel (-1,100) and Machinery (-2,300).


After adding 34,400 jobs in December, this sector saw a significant decrease of -25,200 jobs in January. This sector has a total of +2.9 million jobs as of January.

In Your Region

Overall, regional and state unemployment rates saw little change in December. The employment rate decreased over the month in 25 states, while 14 states saw a higher employment rate, and 11 states had no change, including the District of Columbia. Year-over-year, 45 states and the District of Columbia have seen an increase in employment, with the following states boasting the top gains: Idaho (+4.4 percent), South Carolina (+3.3 percent), and Utah (+3.2 percent). The three states that have seen declines year-over-year are: North Dakota (-4.0 percent), Wyoming (-2.2 percent), and West Virginia (-1.5 percent).

The largest significant job gains in November 2015 were in California (+60,400), Texas (+24,900) and Florida (+21,900). The largest month-over-month increase in percentage employed occurred in Alaska (+0.8 percent), followed by Arkansas, South Carolina and Tennessee (+0.7 percent each). The following states had the largest month-over-month decreases in employment: Illinois (-16,300), Oklahoma (-5,100), and North Dakota (-4,000). Largest percentage decreases were in the following states: North Dakota (-0.9 percent), followed by Vermont (-0.7 percent) and Wyoming (-0.6 percent).

Check out these key regional highlights from the BLS "Regional and State Employment and Unemployment – December 2015" report:



By the end of December, the Mid-Atlantic region – part of the Northeast division – showed an unemployment rate of 4.9 percent, changing from 5.0 percent in November. New Jersey had the highest unemployment rate in this region at 5.1 percent, yet has seen the largest drop in the past three months Since October 2015, the state’s unemployment rate has dropped 0.3 percent. The lowest unemployment rate in this region was Pennsylvania at 4.8 percent, which had dropped 0.2 percent from the previous month. The state of New York stayed put at 4.8 percent.

The New York City unemployment rate ticked up 0.2 points to 5.0 percent. Atlantic City-Hammonton, N.J., had the largest over-the-year unemployment rate decrease in the month of December, dropping a whopping -3.4 percentage points. Montgomery County-Bucks County-Chester County, Pa., had the lowest jobless rate among the divisions, at 3.1 percent.

The largest over-the-year increase in employment among the metropolitan divisions occurred in New York-Jersey City-White Plains, N.Y.-N.J., adding122,700 new jobs.

The largest over-the-year percentage decreases in employment occurred in Dutchess County-Putnam County, NY, showing -2.3 percent job losses.

New England

The New England region – part of the Northeast division – dropped .1 percent from November to 4.7 percent in December. Connecticut and Rhode Island are the two states with higher unemployment rates at 5.2 and 5.1 percent, respectively. Vermont and New Hampshire have some of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, both at 3.6 and 3.1 percent, respectively.

While most of the news was generally positive in New England, metro divisions Taunton-Middleborough-Norton, MA and Nashua, NH showed some of the largest over-the-year percentage decreases in employment, at -1.5 percent and -1.2 percent losses each.


The Midwest division continued to have the lowest unemployment rate at 4.7 percent the month of December. This division has two sub-regions; East North Central (5.2 percent) and West North Central (3.8 percent).

In the West North Central region, all seven states had unemployment rates below 5.0 percent, including: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Minnesota. In fact, North Dakota had the lowest unemployment rate in the nation at just 2.7 percent; and the state in second place — Nebraska at 2.9 percent — is also in this region.

Ames, Iowa had the lowest metropolitan unemployment rate in December, at 2.2 percent.
The East North Central showed a clear contrast to its regional partner, reporting a much higher unemployment rate (5.2 percent), yet this mostly due to the state of Illinois’ inflated rate of 5.9 percent. Michigan’s Detroit-Warren-Dearborn metro unemployment rate rose 0.3 percent to 6.2 percent. Since November of 2014, Michigan's unemployment rate has decreased 1.3 percent, and Detroit-Warren-Dearborn's rate has also fallen by 1.5 percent.


This region maintained an unemployment rate of 5.2 percent. It is made up of the South Atlantic (5.2 percent unemployment), East South Central (5.9 percent unemployment) and the West South Central (4.8 percent unemployment) regions.

The West South Central region sits below the national unemployment rate at 4.8 percent, while the South Atlantic and East South Central regions bring the South's overall unemployment rate up at 5.2 percent and 5.9 percent, respectively.

Below are the states with the lowest and highest unemployment rates in each of this division's regions:

  1. West South Central: Oklahoma 4.1 percent (-0.2 from previous month)/ Louisiana 6.1 percent (-0.2 from previous month)
  2. East South Central: Kentucky 5.3 percent (+0.4 percent from previous month) / Mississippi 6.4 percent (+0.4 percent from previous month)
  3. South Atlantic: Virginia 4.2 percent (Flat from previous month) / West Virginia 6.3 percent (-0.2 from previous month)

Yuma, Arizona had the second highest metropolitan area unemployment rate in the country.


The West division continued to have the highest divisional unemployment rate in the country at 5.4 percent, which remained flat from a month earlier. Year-over-year, the West's unemployment rate has dropped an entire percentage point from 6.4 in December 2014. This division is made up of the Mountain region (4.9 percent) and Pacific region (5.6 percent). Below are the states with the lowest and highest unemployment rates in each of this division's regions:

  1. Pacific: Hawaii 3.2 percent (Flat from previous month)  / Alaska 6.5 percent (+0.1 percent from previous month)
  2. Mountain: Utah & Colorado both 3.5 percent (UT flat, Colorado -0.1 percent from previous month / New Mexico 6.4 percent (-0.4 percent from previous month)