The Challenger job-cut report indicated mass December corporate layoffs at 32,423, compared to 35,038 in November. For the entire year of 2017, mass corporate layoffs totaled 418,770—the lowest annual total since 1990 (27 years).
The Institute of Supply Management's December business report indicated a healthy and growing manufacturing sector. The Purchasing Manager's Index (PMI) increased to 59.7 in December (compared to 58.2 in November). Of 18 manufacturing industry sectors, 16 showed growth in December. The index of new manufacturing orders hit a 14-year high. The backlog of new orders dropped a full percentage point and customer inventories fell 3.5 percentage points. The index of manufacturing production increased 1.9 percentage points.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the December employment situation report. Nonfarm payrolls increased 148,000 and private payrolls increased 146,000 for the month—well below the 252,000 and 239,000, respectively, reported in November. It appears that retail employers began hiring more seasonal employees in November.
The BLS report showed no change in the 4.1 percent unemployment rate (a 17-year low). Although it still needs to improve, the black unemployment rate of 6.8 percent was the lowest ever recorded in the 45-year history of the data series. The Hispanic/Latino unemployment rate was 4.9 percent (0.1 percent higher than last month's all-time low). The unemployment rate was 4.1 percent for adult men and 3.8 percent for adult women.
Average hourly earnings increased 0.3 percent from November to $26.63 in December three times the November percentage increase. The length of the average workweek remained constant at 34.5 hours. Similarly, the participation rate was constant at 62.7 percent.
Most other economic news was also positive. For the first time in its 120-plus year history, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 25,000. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq stock indices also established all-time highs.
The new tax law should be a strong plus for the economy. If a stimulus bill is passed, it would be positive for the economy. Many sociopolitical and economic factors (e.g. North Korea and Iran) exist which could upset the economic applecart. However, baring major changes, it may be time to celebrate.
Believers have a long history of celebrating. The Jewish feasts were called celebrations. Nehemiah called the dedication of the wall around Jerusalem a celebration. When bringing the ark to Jerusalem, David was celebrating before the Lord.
"Three times in the year you must celebrate a feast to Me" (Ex. 23:14).
"At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought to bring the Levites from all their places to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication appropriately with thanksgiving songs and singing, accompanied by cymbals, harps, and lyres" (Neh. 12:27).
"Meanwhile, David and the entire house of Israel were celebrating before the Lord with all sorts of instruments ..." (2 Sam. 6:5a).
On Feb. 28, faithful Jews will celebrate the festival of Purim. The celebration had its origins some 2, 5000 years ago in ancient Persia. A wicked official by the name of Haman had convinced the king to exterminate the captive Jews. Haman drew lots (or pur) to determine the fateful day.
But God had other plans. Through divine intervention, a Jewish girl by the name of Ester was Queen. Mordecai, a leader of the Jewish people, was Ester's cousin and had been her guardian. The Jews, Mordecai and Ester fasted and prayed. Ester approached the King and the situation was reversed. God had given them the victory.
To commemorate the reversal in fortunes, the Jews instituted the celebration of Purim. Today, as in ancient times, it is a day of feasting, rejoicing, sending food to one another, and giving gifts to the poor. The originators wanted the day to be remembered. The story of Ester has been faithfully preserved through the centuries.
"like the days when the Jews had rest from their enemies, and like the month when things turned around for them—changing from sorrow to joy and from mourning into a favorable day—so that they could celebrate a season of feasting and rejoicing and sending food portions to one another and gifts to the poor" (Esth. 9:22).
"the Jews instituted and accepted as tradition for themselves, for their descendants, and for all joining with them not to fail in observing the celebration of these two days as prescribed and as specified in each and every year. These days should be remembered and celebrated throughout every generation, every family, province, and city, so that these days of Purim will not lose their significance among the Jews, and the commemoration of these days will not cease among their descendants" (Esth. 9:27-28).
The Lord believes in celebrations. Celebrations are a way of expressing our thankfulness and remembering His faithfulness. Celebrations bridge the gap between past, present and future. In many ways, celebrations activate our faith.
When faced with persecution, we are told to rejoice and leap for joy. When a sinner repents, the Scriptures tell of a cerebration in heaven. The marriage supper of the Lamb is a grand celebration.
"Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for indeed, your reward is great in heaven. For in like manner their fathers treated the prophets" (Luke 6:23).
"Likewise, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous men who need no repentance" (Luke 15:7).
"Then he said to me, 'Write: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.' And he said to me, 'These are the true sayings of God'" (Rev. 19:9).
If we believe that we have received the good news, we should celebrate. If we have been blessed, let us celebrate. If we are being tried, we celebrate because of our assured deliverance.
"Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks" (1 Thess. 5:16-18a).
"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! (Phil. 4:4).
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.
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