Jobs Growth for the New Decade Could Look Vastly Different

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If there has been one unequivocal sign over the past decade that the U.S. economy has been able to hold its own, it is the U.S. jobs market.

While December marked the weakest year of employment growth in nearly a decade, with a tepid December payroll report that highlighted modest wage gains, it still capped off a decade in which more than 2 million jobs were added to the economy.

What kinds of jobs? Not the kinds that characterized the economy 10 years ago, when employment meant full-time manufacturing or service sector-type jobs. 

Indeed, December's numbers marked a muted end to a year - and decade - framed by dramatic shifts away from manufacturing and full-time positions to the rise and growth of the "gig" economy, which has continued to put Americans to work and padded their pockets with cash, fuelling the U.S. economy in the process. 

That is part of the reason why the U.S. economy has continued to power along, despite massive gyrations in global growth that have impacted how much in goods and services the rest of the world buys from American companies.

It is also the reason why the unemployment rate has held at a 50-year low of 3.5% and wage gains have remained tame: Workers are taking on different kinds of jobs in different ways - and boosting their incomes not via wage gains but by taking on multiple gigs.

Heading into the roaring '20s, economists and analysts expect to see more of the same. What could change in the short run, however, are the increases and decreases of the number of jobs created, and in turn how that impacts the Federal Reserve's view on the direction of the economy and interest rates.

"While this morning’s number is lighter than expected, make no mistake- it’s very meaningful growth," said Mike Loewengart, vice president of investment strategy with E*Trade. "This reading shouldn’t change things for the (Federal Reserve) as growth continues, albeit at a slower pace."