Job trends bolstering outlook for weak places in 2018

Job gains are supporting an outlook for sustained growth in 2018 and raising prospects for slower-growing places across the middle and Northeast part of the country—led by job gains in energy, mining and other goods industries.

Although the strongest parts of the country are in the West, Southwest, and Southeast, signs of improvement are emerging elsewhere—fed in part by a rebound in energy-related jobs as oil prices rise.

The improvement in goods-sector jobs has benefited from the slack in those sectors in recent years, while service-sector jobs in contrast grow at a more moderate pace than previously—likely constrained by tighter job markets in those sectors.

The spending outlook will continue to reflect the unevenness in these underlying job trends by geography and industry:

  • Weak markets. Ten states are growing at a 0.5% pace or less—with Alaska, West Virginia, and Wyoming the worst off. At least six of these markets have significant oil or mining sectors, which remain relatively weak.
  • Local market exceptions. Cases of relatively strong local markets—despite average-to-lagging job markets at a state level—are evident in: Nashville-TN, Grand Rapids-MI, Minneapolis-MN, among other places.
  • Strong markets. The strength in the top 10 states by job growth (~2%+ growth) is led by local markets with the strongest gains nationally, which include: Riverside, CA, Orlando-FL, San Antonio-TX, Raleigh-NC, Las Vegas-NV, and Dallas-Ft. Worth-TX.

The differences by industry and local market are hidden amid the strong overall gain of 200,000 jobs in January—which was a pickup from a more modest gain of 160,000 jobs in December.

Looking back at 2017, the job market was slightly weaker than 2016. Monthly job gains averaged 181,000 per month in 2017, down from 195,000 per month in 2016.

The job trends likely will support sustained economic growth (see more here) and consumer retail spending, albeit at a less robust pace than the holidays (see retail-related trends here).

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