The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released a solid April Employment Situation Report. The monthly change in nonfarm payrolls was 211,000 compared to 79,000 in March and a forecast of 187,000. Private payrolls increased 194,000 from the March estimate of 77,000 and a forecast of 180,000. The April unemployment rate was 4.4 percent versus 4.5 percent in March and a forecast of 4.6 percent. The average workweek was unchanged at 34.4 hours. But disappointingly, average hourly earnings only increased 2.5 percent from the previous year compared to 2.6 percent from the year ago estimate and expectations of 2.7 percent.
Industry sectors which showed the most job growth include Leisure and Hospitality (55,000), Education and Health Services (41,000) and Professional and Business Services (39,000). The two sectors which showed the largest growth are areas which traditionally offer lower-than-average or minimum wages. For example, within the Leisure and Hospitality sector, the food services and drinking places sub-sector, populated heavily by waitresses and bartenders, had the most job growth (26,200). Similarly, within the Education and Health Services sector, the sub-sectors showing the most job growth were social assistance (17,300) and ambulatory health care services (14,200). The type of jobs created during April explain, at least in part, the weakness in average hourly earnings.
The other reason for low wage growth can be gleaned from the BLS report on Productivity and Costs. The latest report estimated that the quarterly change in first quarter labor productivity fell at an annual rate of 0.6 percent compared to an increase of 1.8 percent previously. The quarterly change in unit labor costs (as opposed to cost per hour) increased at an annual rate of 3.0 percent compared to 1.3 percent previously. Lower productivity, creates higher unit labor costs, which dampens wage growth.
In economics, the demand for an individual's labor is called his/her marginal revenue product (MRP). MRP is the product of marginal physical product (productivity) and the revenue a worker generates (related to vocation). The greater the skill, diligence and productivity of a worker, the greater his/her demand.
Christian believers should be in high demand in the workplace. As imitators of Christ, we should be the most valuable workers an organization could possibly hire. The Bible is filled with examples, which can be applied in the workplace, that will allow the employer and believer to prosper.
1 Chronicles 5:18-22 tells of a group of 44,760 Israelite soldiers. The text describes them as courageous, bold and skilled. But the text also says that they were victorious in battle and obtained the many spoils because they prayed to the Lord during the heat of battle and trusted in Him. Their example tells us to:
- be valiant (bold and courageous),
- be skilled (continue to grow and practice our skills),
- to pray,
- trust God, and
- reap the spoils.
Joseph went from being the favored son with the multi-colored coat to a being a slave of Potiphar. But Potiphar, recognizing that the Lord was with Joseph, and that He caused him to prosper in everything, put him in charge of his household. When faced with temptation, Joseph kept his integrity and was thrown in jail. The jailer recognized the Lord was with Joseph and caused him to prosper in everything—so he put him in charge of the jail. By staying close to the Lord, Joseph was given the opportunity to interpret Pharaoh's dream. Pharaoh recognized the Spirit was with Joseph and put him in charge of Egypt.
Joseph's faithfulness to God, integrity and skills allowed him to bless Potiphar, the jailer and other prisoners, and Pharaoh with the Egyptian people. It allowed him to move from a favored son, to a prosperous slave, to a prosperous prisoner, to a prince of Egypt. His lifetime of faithfulness put him in position to bless and save all the Israelites. From his example, we learn:
- to have integrity,
- to be hopeful and diligent regardless of circumstances,
- to be faithful,
- that the presence of the Lord with us is recognizable by others and
- that favor and rewards follow the faithful believer.
As believers, we can honor the Lord in all that we do. In the process of honoring the Lord, we will bless many and reap rewards ourselves.
"And whatever you do, do it heartily, as for the Lord and not for men" (Col. 3:23).
"His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who has called us by His own glory and excellence" (2 Pet. 1:3).
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.
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