Americans now more optimistic about employment than ever

January 23, 2018

Keywords: Wealth Solutions

The economy rolled to the rhythm of a robust drumbeat in 2017, with gross domestic product back in gear, the stock market up by double digits and employers adding jobs aplenty, sending the unemployment rate to 17-year lows. And it appears Americans were moved by the good news, as optimistic as they've ever been before regarding job opportunities, a recent poll showed.

Fifty-six percent of U.S. adults profess to feeling confident about their ability to find quality employment, according to a newly released survey conducted by Gallup. That's the highest level of optimism in the survey's 17-year history, and a substantial uptick from the 42 percent positivity average in 2016.

In excess of 200,000 jobs were added to payrolls during several months of last year, with 228,000 produced in November, according to the Labor Department. And on average, the typical month saw 174,000 positions open up, said William Wiatrowski, acting commissioner for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, speaking to National Public Radio.

The rather consistent string of increased hiring has helped keep the jobless rate in healthy territory, rising only once on a month-to-month basis in all of 2017. That happened in August, when unemployment ticked up slightly to 4.4 percent from 4.3 percent in July. By December, joblessness reached 4.1 percent - a low last witnessed in 2000 - originally plumbing to this depth in October.

9 in 10 experts say full employment is here or near
It's this consistency that has many economists believing the country's economy - for all intents and purposes - is at full employment. Indeed, 90 percent of experts polled by The Wall Street Journal said it has already reached this watershed moment or is on the cusp of doing so.

What does full employment mean? While there's no standard definition to the term, economists typically refer to it in the context of prices and earnings. In other words, it's possible to go beyond full employment, but not without wages being impacted, not to mention what businesses sell goods and services for.

Sean Snaith, director of the Institute for Economic Competitiveness at the University of Central Florida, told the Journal the plodding pace of wage growth is preventing the economy from the full employment distinction.

"Until we see sustained higher growth in wages, hidden slack in the labor market remains," Snaith explained.

Roughly 9 percent of economists in the Journal's poll believed the country was still a ways from the full employment tag.

ETI hits above 107 in December
If the economy isn't there already - even though most economists believe it to be - it likely will reach this perch in the not-too-distant future, according to The Conference Board. In December, the Employment Trends Index topped 107, a near full point higher from November and a 5.2 percent uptick on a year-over-year basis.

The Conference Board's chief economist Gad Levanon said the ETI's closing number for 2017 paints an encouraging picture for what 2018 will look like.

"The rapid improvement in the Employment Trends Index in recent months suggests that job growth is unlikely to slow down in the months ahead," Levanon said. "The U.S. economy has been significantly accelerating in recent quarters and the tax cuts passed by Congress will provide an additional boost to the U.S. economy in 2018."

The tax overhaul and stellar employment numbers have served as a compelling backdrop for investors on Wall Street, as trading has turned heads even for seasoned stock market participants. Less than two weeks after reaching 25,000, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has since topped 26,000, with the Standard & Poor's 500 and Nasdaq logging their own all-time records.

These are economically encouraging times - both for the U.S. and much of the world. Let the experts at Miles Capital help you make the most of them by learning more about our wealth solutions. Download our handy brochure to see what we can do for you.

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