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THE LATEST JOB REPORT WHERES THE BEEF

The latest job numbers have been making the headlines. Despite an unchanged unemployment rate, the 227,000 jobs that were added between January and February are a positive sign that our economic recovery continues to sputter along, albeit at a painfully slow pace. While the January and February numbers are preliminary, these are the only employment benchmarks we can use to gauge our recovery. As long as we recognize that these numbers can be revised the monthly releases at least allow us to monitor the direction and velocity of change that is afoot. To borrow the line from Wendys TV commercial, the question that comes to mind is, wheres the beef? While we added a good number of jobs, we must look beyond news headlines to understand if the recovery is even across sectors, or if major parts of our economy are still struggling. Surprisingly, the job gains have been fairly well balanced in some of the higher value-add sectors. Professional & Business Services, Education & Health Services, Leisure, and even Manufacturing have been the leaders. In fact, these industries alone contributed 228,000 new jobs to the economic recovery. What is interesting is that within these broad sectors, several industries standout. For example, within Professional & Business Services, professional and technical services and management consulting were drivers, as was computer and system design. Unfortunately, temporary services racked-up 45,000 jobs, signifying that employers continue to be shy about adding permanent jobs and opt instead for contract-type workers that can be easily cut. In addition, Education & Health continues to add jobs, with health care and hospital job gains pushing that number significantly. In contrast, the Leisure & Hospitality sector was fueled by job gains in the lodging/accommodation and food service segments, although amusements and gaming also added a notable level of new jobs, perhaps signaling that both business and personal spending are on an up-tick. Perhaps the most interesting sector creating jobs is Manufacturing. Durable goods were clearly the winner, although job growth came across several subsectors. These included 8,300 jobs in transportation equipment, of which the auto industry accounted for 67% of the gains which is good news for Detroit and other communities with an auto presence. Fabricated metals also stood out with solid gains, as did machinery with almost 16,000 jobs added in these two sectors. In contrast, computers, semiconductors, and communications all remain flat at best. While we all might sleep easier if the job gains were more robust and spread across more sectors at this point in the recovery, the reality is that the recession was deep and global stresses continue to have their impact. This is evident in the sectors that are still running negative or only making slight gains (such as Trade, Finance, Information, and Retail). It will take time for full recovery. In the meantime, it looks like we are on the right path and there is beef in that burger. The accompanying chart illustrates job gains by sector over the January to February period.

JOBS ADDED - JAN TO FEB 2012 (000s)


Professional & Business Services Education & Health Services Leisure & Hospitality Manufacturing Transportation & Warehousing Wholesale Trade Financial Services Utilities Information Total Government Other Services Retail Trade Construction Mining & Logging (20) 0 20 40 60 80 100

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Walter S. Bialas.

Walter Bialas has more than 25 years of real estate advisory experience in consulting, banking, and development. He has served as chair of ICSCs North American Research Task Force and is an active member of ULIs Advisory Services program. He can be reached at 703-919-8553 or by email at wbialas@verizon.net.

March 2012