A lot of national economic indicators may still be wishy-washy at best, but it's hard to ignore the strong Middle Tennessee jobs data of late. The team members at MTSU's Business & Economic Research Center have crunched the March numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which are highlighted by the following:
• Manufacturing growth has rebounded nicely since January, powered by durable goods — which in the Nashville area means the automotive sector is hopping.
• Service companies are leading the way. Professional and business services jobs have averaged growth of 7.1 percent so far in 2012 and the 'Other services' category has averaged more than 6 percent growth.
• Something to watch on the downside: Education and health care employers, which began tightening the reins last fall, show no signs of ramping up hiring.
The Milken Institute has released its 2011 rankings of U.S. cities of all sizes based on how well they are creating and keeping jobs. Nashville had a good year on the list — primarily because of its recent job growth — moving up to 42nd from 84th a year ago and getting much closer to peer cities such as Raleigh and Austin. Charlotte, meanwhile, fell more than 50 spots to 114th.
Ian Shepherdson at High Frequency Economics says some of the more downbeat chatter about last week's jobs report overlooks some solid underlying fundamentals. Hours worked are up, as are household employment and temp hiring — all of which point to "suggest better times ahead" soon.
The latest numbers on Nashville-area job growth from Middle Tennessee State University's Business and Economic Research Center show a number of different sectors heading in different directions: Finance, health and education are growing while transportation, government and information employers are shrinking. The end result: Year-over-year growth of 1.0 percent, down a bit from the previous six months' average of 1.3 percent.
U.S. employers pulled back on hiring big time last month, adding just 54,000 jobs. That has pushed the national unemployment rate back over 9 percent. And there's no blaming it on one-off events.
The Labor Department said severe weather last month, including tornadoes and flooding, in the Midwest and the South did not materially affect data collection. It also said that while some workers in those regions may have been temporarily displaced from their jobs, it found "no clear impact of the disasters on the national employment and unemployment data for May." The employment report provides one of the best early reads on the health of the U.S. economy and it regularly sets the tone for global financial markets.
SEE ALSO: A smorgasbord of economist reactions via the WSJ, with emotions ranging from "There is no way to put lipstick on that pig" to "This is an overreaction to gas prices."
The latest Bureau and Economic Research Center heat chart showing how the Nashville-area job market is evolving shows a lot more red than a few months ago — and that's not good. After notching overall year-over-year employment growth of at least 2 percent for six straight months starting last fall, the MSA's growth rate checked in at just 0.9 percent in April. Not surprisingly, a drop like that can't be attributed to any one sector: Growth in the information, business services, hospitality and government arenas has slowed significantly or turned negative since February.
According to Middle Tennessee State University’s Business and Economic Research Center, the mining, logging and construction field led in job growth last month, rising 5.9 percent compared to March of 2010.
Other industries with significant job growth were the professional and business services (4.7 percent) and education/health services (2.6 percent) fields. Also of note was a 0.7 percent uptick in manufacturing jobs — the first time the industry has been in the black for adding workers in at least the past year.
See BERC’s color-coded chart at this link.
The team at the Business & Economic Research Center at MTSU has updated employment data through February for the state's metro areas. Nashville's seasonally adjusted numbers show that year-over-year growth turned positive last April and that the region now is home to about 17,000 more jobs than a year ago.
But since crossing the 2 percent threshold in September, growth has — with the minor exception of December's holiday hiring — stubbornly stayed in an extremely narrow range. Here's how the year-over-year numbers look since the beginning of 2009.
And here's an industry breakdown showing just two sectors growing at a typical post-recession pace.
In both cases, the end of the recession was followed by a period of “jobless recovery” during which payrolls continued to lose jobs and the unemployment rate continue to increase. In 1991, the jobless recovery lasted about 15 months and following the 2001 downturn, it took about 19 months for the job market to reverse course,” said Challenger. “This recession also experienced a period of jobless recovery. However, an examination of several employment trends suggests that this jobless recovery may have lasted just six months and is now on a positive track.”