Job Market Update: January 2017

Job growth started off strong in January, with 227,000 jobs added. Unemployment had no significant change, coming in a tenth of a percent higher than December at 4.8 percent.


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Job Market Update

This image and all data supporting this monthly blog post is provided by the BLS Regional and State Unemployment Report and the BLS Employment Situation Summary.

Jobs increased in retail trade, construction, and financial activities. Notably, retail trade added 46,000 jobs. The ever-growing food services and drinking places industry continued to increase in January with an addition of 30,000 jobs.

Long-term unemployment was unchanged and accounted for 24.4 percent of the unemployed. Over the past year, the number of long-term unemployed declined by 244,000.

The number employed part time for economic reasons was little changed in January at 5.8 million. These individuals, who preferred full-time employment, worked part time because their hours were cut back or they were unable to find full-time jobs.

Unfortunately, employment gains in November and December combined to be 39,000 lower than previously reported. The November report was revised down from +204,000 to +164,000, but December was revised up from +156,000 to +157,000.

In Your Industry

With 227,000 jobs added in January, the labor market has started 2017 off on the right foot. Major growth sectors driving the strong job gains in January included retail trade, construction, and financial activities. Industries that had little influence on overall job gains include mining and logging, manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, and information.

Retail trade grew significantly in January, adding 46,000 jobs over the month and even outpacing the 33,000 added in December. The segments of retail that experienced the most growth were clothing and accessories stores (+18,000), electronics and appliance stores (+8,000) and furniture stores (+6,000).

Construction enjoyed healthy growth to the tune of 36,000 jobs, an encouraging figure after a Ā small gain of 2,000 in December. In addition, this number was more than triple the amount of construction jobs added in the same period in 2016. Residential specialty trade contractors added 11,000 jobs and residential building tacked on an additional 9,000. Total gains for construction jobs are 170,000 over the past year.

Financial activities contributed 32,000 jobs to overall growth in January. This figure more than doubles the monthly average growth of 15,000 from 2016 and continues the trend of accumulating growth from November and December. Real estate (+10,000), insurance carriers and related activities (+9,000) and credit intermediation (+9,000) were the biggest drivers of growth in finance.

Professional and technical services added 23,000 jobs in January, a similar number to its average in 2016. In particular, computer systems design and related services contributed 13,000 of those jobs, illustrating the increasing demand for digitization of processes.

Temporary services had a modest growth of 15,000 jobs in January, but this is interesting to note as the sector lost 43,000 jobs during the same period in January 2016 and reverses the 13,000 jobs lost in the industry in December.

Government once again lost a significant amount of jobs, to the tune of 10,000 in January. Most troubling about this loss is the area most affected ā€“ 7,400 education jobs in state government were lost, as well as 2,700 education jobs in local government. While the government sector grew by 16,000 in January 2016, the last three months have averaged a loss of over 10,000 jobs.

Health care and social assistance continued to exhibit significant growth, adding 32,000 jobs. Specific areas that added the most jobs were ambulatory services and social assistance ā€“ hospital employment growth was not a major factor in January.
Food services and drinking places remained a strong driver of growth, adding 30,000 jobs and being the major contributor to the overall addition of 34,000 leisure and hospitality jobs.

In Your Region

Unemployment rates were significantly lower for December in 10 states, steady in 39 states and the District of Columbia. Notable jobless rate decreases from the prior year were seen in 11 states, 2 states saw increases and 37 states and the District had no significant change.

In December, no region had an unemployment rate significantly different than the U.S. rate of 4.7 percent. Over the month the Northeast and West experienced statistically significant unemployment rate changes of -0.1 points each. Significant over-the-year rate changes occurred for the West (-0.6 point) and South (-0.3 point).

Across the nine geographic divisions, New England had the lowest unemployment rate at 3.5 percent in December, followed by West North Central (4.0 percent) and Mountain (4.3 percent). The highest unemployment rate is held by the East South Central region at 5.4 percent, followed by Middle Atlantic at 5.2 percent. Significant changes in the jobless rate compared to the previous year were see in 4 of the 9 divisions, all of which were declines. The largest decrease occurred in New England (-1.2 percent).

Check out these key regional highlights from BLS “Regional and State Employment and Unemployment ā€“ December 2016” report:


The Northeast’s unemployment rate saw a decrease of 0.1 percentage points, from 4.8 in November to 4.7 in December, with both New England and the Middle Atlantic improving. New Bedford, Massachusetts, continued to show the largest over-the-year unemployment rate decrease of -2.6 percent (from 6.7 to 4.1), even with an increase from 3.7 in November. The largest over-the-year increase happened San German, Puerto Rico (which is included in the New York-New Jersey Region) with a 3.6 percent increase (from 12.1 to 15.7).

  • Middle Atlantic (5.2 percent)
  • New England (3.5 percent)

New Hampshire and Massachusetts continued to have the lowest unemployment rates in the region at 2.6 and 2.8 percent, respectively. Puerto Rico (12.4 percent), New York (5.1 percent) and New Jersey (5.0 percent) had the highest, well above the national average.


The Midwest continued to be near par with the national unemployment, sitting at 4.7 percent. Rates in Illinois increased from 5.6 to 5.7 percent, and in from 4.9 to 5.0 in Michigan, so East North Central was trending higher than the national average. The largest over-the-year increase was in Cleveland-Elyria, Ohio, from 4.0 to 5.2 percent.

  • East North Central (5.0 percent)
  • West North Central (4.0 percent)

Most states in West North Central continued to be exceptionally below the national average: South Dakota (2.8 percent), North Dakota (3.0 percent, Nebraska (3.4 percent), Iowa (3.6 percent) and Minnesota (3.9 percent).


The South’s unemployment continued to remain at the same rate of 4.9 percent. In December, the South Atlantic unemployment rates are at or above the national average with East South Central at 5.3 percent, South Central at 4.9 percent and West South Central at 4.8 percent. Virginia (4.1 percent), Maryland (4.2 percent) and Delaware (4.3 percent) had the lowest unemployment rates of the region.

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

  • West South Central: Arkansas (3.9 percent) / Louisiana (6.1 percent)
  • East South Central: Kentucky (4.8 percent) / Mississippi (5.6 percent)
  • South Atlantic: Virginia (4.1 percent) / West Virginia (5.9 percent)


The West matched the South with an unemployment rate at 4.9 percent, though it’s down from 5.0 in November. The following states had the lowest and highest unemployment rates in each of this division’s regions:

  • Pacific: Hawaii (2.9 percent) / Alaska (6.7 percent)
  • Mountain: Utah (3.1 percent) / New Mexico (6.6 percent)

El Centro, California, and Yuma, Arizona, had the highest unemployment rates of the nation at 18.8 percent and 15.3 percent, respectively, though they’ve slightly improved from the month of November. Urban Honolulu, Hawaii had the lowest unemployment rate at 2.4 percent.

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