A better-than-expected gain of 295,000 nonfarm payroll jobs brought the unemployment rate down to 5.5%—the lowest figure since May 2008—although a decline in the fraction of the population participating in the labor force may be exaggerating the impact on the rate. Office-using jobs increased by 68,000, in line with the 73,300 average monthly gain over the prior twelve months (Table 1 and Chart 1).
While financial activity hiring was below January’s outsized increase, professional and business services employment resumed its typical advance. However, temporary help employment, which comprises approximately 14% of the professional and business services category, contracted for the second straight month, suggesting that employers may finally be hiring permanent workers due to greater clarity about their near-term business prospects.
With almost all categories of employment showing steady growth over the past year, wages (in contrast to total compensation, for example) have been on the rise. Chart 2 highlights those industries where the year-over-year increase in average weekly earnings is greater in February 2015 than in February 2014, which includes most sectors with the exception of information. Information is the smallest component of the office-using employment sector—so in this sense, it is the least significant—but downward pressure in wages in any one category still merits careful consideration in the context of implications for profitability for the office-using segment as a whole.
Table 1. Monthly Change in Office-Using Payrolls by Category (000s, SA)
Chart 1. Office-Using Employment and Total Payrolls, February 2007 – February 2015 (Seasonally-Adjusted, 000s)
Chart 2. Average Weekly Earnings of All Workers, by Sector, YoY % Change