Sun, April 21, 2024

Simon Says: Glimmer of good news for jobs but inflation still a fear

Dr. Simon Medcalfe, AU Economics Professor

The New Year brought some cheer to several sectors of the Augusta Metropolitan Statistical Area economy.  The retail sector continued to gain jobs, employment in this sector was up 400 and is close to providing 30,000 jobs. Reassuringly, leisure and hospitality added almost 400 jobs as well.

Manufacturing added a further 250 jobs and mining, logging, and construction added 400 jobs. Professional and business services saw an increase of over 600 jobs, following five consecutive months of declining jobs.

Weekly earnings rose slightly in January.

These job gains were offset by losses of about 400 jobs in health and educational services and 350 jobs in government. The wholesale trade sector and transportation and utilities also saw small declines in employment.

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At a time of raging inflation (currently 7.9 percent) average weekly earnings fell by 0.7 percent from January 2021, representing eight consecutive months of year-on-year decline (see chart). However, average weekly earnings have been increasing from October, up from $904 to $911, nowhere near enough to keep up with inflation, but at least a move in the right direction. Peak weekly earnings were $921 per week in November 2021.

The economic fear right now is inflation. As the Federal Reserve increases interest rates to slow the rate of increase in prices, this will also slow the growth of the economy. At a time when the Augusta economy has seen sluggish growth over the last year, the future may be less rosy than the first month’s data suggest.

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