The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) documented a strong job market in their February employment report. Nonfarm payrolls increased 313,000 for the month, (113,000 higher than a year ago, 74,000 higher than January and more than 100,000 higher than pre-report expectations). Private employment was also strong. Private employment increased 287,000 during February (83,000 above a year ago, 49,000 above January and 92,00 above forecasts).
Construction (61,000), retail (50,300) and manufacturing (31,000) sectors added the most jobs during the month. February was the fifth consecutive month of strong manufacturing job gains. Over the last 12 months, the manufacturing sector has added 224,000 jobs—the highest in 20 years.
The civilian labor force grew by a very large 806,000 during February as more confident potential workers begin entering the work force. This work force, which consists of those which are either working or looking for a job, has grown by 1,900,000 over the past year. The participation rate, as a percent of the working age civilian population, grew from 62.7 percent to 63.0 percent in February. The unemployment rate remained at 4.1 percent—more than a 17-year low.
Wage increases were lower than expected. Average hourly earnings increased 2.6 percent during the past year and 0.1 percent for the month. The increase in the participation rate and the lower than expected increase in wages, helped ease concerns about inflation and more aggressive contractionary Fed policies. Employment for black, female and total Americans are at record highs.
The U. S. labor market is strong and strengthening. Lower taxes, less regulation and friendlier energy policies have created an environment for a stronger labor market. But while many would have predicted the direction, the strength of the February employment report surprised nearly everyone. Wow! Amazing!
In the kingdom, are we honoring God with a sense of awe? Do we recognize His many benefits, and power and majesty? Do we recognize His mercy, grace and loving-kindness toward us? Or have we become hardened? Do we fail to thank and bless Him in all conditions? Is our trust in Him or our circumstances? Perhaps a review of some of His works will give us a better appreciation.
We know that the Lord created all things. He created our solar system with eight planets. Our solar system is part of the Milky Way galaxy. Our galaxy has somewhere between 200 and 400 billion stars (suns) and at least 100 billion planets. In the universe, there are between 200 billion and two trillion galaxies; our universe has more suns than the number of grains of sand on planet Earth. Is anything impossible for such a big God?
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were created through Him, and without Him nothing was created that was created" (John 1:1-3).
"For with God nothing will be impossible" (Luke 1:37).
God is also concerned with details. Jesus taught that a sparrow will not die apart from our Father — out of 100-200 billion sparrows currently on the earth. Similarly, the hairs of our head are all numbered. With the earth's population at 7.6 billion, and the average human head having 100,000 strands of hair, there are approximately 7.6 quadrillion strands of hair today. If God is concerned about sparrows and our hair, we can safely assume He is concerned about all of the details of our life.
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore do not fear. You are more valuable than many sparrows" (Matt. 10:29-31).
"Therefore, take no thought, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' (For the Gentiles seek after all these things.) For your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be given to you" (Matt. 6:31-33).
Most born-again believers know that our God is awesome and worthy of our praise. But, if it has been a while since we have really been in awe before the Lord, perhaps we are becoming distracted. The Lord is involved in our lives in awesome ways, but we're not noticing. The worries of this world and deceitfulness of riches have distracted us from more important things.
"He also who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, but the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful" (Matt. 13:22).
Let us determine to give the Lord credit for all of His works in a state of humble awe. A particularly beautiful sunrise or sunset is evidence of His majesty. Health, protection and provision are evidence of His faithfulness and love for us. His Scriptures are filled with promises and are a source of constant encouragement, but that only works if we read them. The Holy Spirit teaches, guides and empowers us to make significant differences in the kingdom, but we need to listen and obey.
Let everyone stand in awe of Him. We stand in awe because we know Him and His awesome power, love and grace. The entire world should be in awe, but the beginning could be with us. "Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him" (Ps. 33:8b).
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.
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