July 23, 2019

Month-to-month changes in economic statistics usually tell us nothing about where the economy is headed, there’s too much variability. But a six month comparison might be enlightening at a time when the economy seems to be slowing.

In January, the total number of jobs in the economy was up 2.0 percent from the previous year – this happened to be the high-spot of growth in the last couple of years. In June, that growth was 1.5 percent.

What accounts for the drop, especially since jobs in healthcare – one of the biggest sectors of the economy – actually did better in June? Most important, business services did worse: the change from 2.5 percent in January to 2.2 in June is meaningful because the category includes so many jobs. There was also a slowdown of growth in restaurants, finance, retail, manufacturing and – somewhat ominously – construction.

Whether commercial or residential, construction projects take time and money, and developers won’t start a new one if they think future demand will be weak – which usually means they’re having trouble selling their existing product.