The August employment report was disappointing. The monthly change in non-farm payrolls was 151,000 compared to a July estimate of 275,000 and a pre-report consensus forecast of 175,000 (Bloomberg Econoday). The change in private payrolls was only 126,000 compared to July with 225,000 and pre-report expectations of nearly 180,000.
The high wage sectors of manufacturing, construction and mining/logging lost jobs. Services, leisure and hospitality, government and financial services sectors had the most job gains. Headline unemployment remained unchanged at 4.9 percent. Lower educated workers had the highest unemployment. The average hours worked per week fell, and the monthly increase in wage rates fell by 2/3.
A broader definition of unemployment (U-6) remained unchanged at 9.7 percent. U-6 takes into account those working part-time but who want to work full-time, and those marginally attached to the work force. The unemployment rate would be much higher yet if all who have dropped out of the labor force were considered. The labor force participation rate is close to 37 year low with a near-record 94.391 million not in the labor force (working or actively seeking employment).
Employment reports indicate the value of preparation and persistence. People who prepared for the work force, with at least a four-year college degree, face an unemployment rate of 2.7 percent. In contrast, workers who dropped out of high school have an unemployment rate of 7.2 percent.
Average earnings also increase with education. Some people not in the work force have retired. But many have become discouraged and given up. They have tried to get a job, were unsuccessful and quit looking. Winston Churchill's quote to "never, never, never give up" has great value.
Preparation and persistence are keys to fruitfulness in ministry. Our Lord spent 30 years preparing for three years of earthly ministry. In spite of persecution, He persisted unto death, and we have the opportunity for eternal life.
Saul (later known as the apostle Paul) was preparing for a future Christian ministry as a Pharisee (by studying the Word) even though he did not know it at the time. After his conversion, he spent another three years in preparation. All of the apostles faced persecution, but Paul stands alone in his steadfastness under severe persecution and in his fruitfulness.
"But when it pleased God, who set me apart since I was in my mother's womb and called me by His grace ... I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood ... But I went into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. After three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter and stayed with him for fifteen days" (Gal. 1:15-18).
"Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I suffered shipwreck; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own countrymen, in perils by the Gentiles ... Beside the external things, the care of all the churches pressures me daily" (2 Cor. 11:24-28).
Timothy's entire life prepared him for a long and fruitful ministry. Since he was born to a Jewish mother and Greek father, he was familiar with both cultures and languages. He learned the Scriptures from his mother and probably had Greek and Roman connections from his father.
Paul complemented Timothy on his strong Christian faith, which he said was first in his mother and grandmother. Can we imagine better preparation to be a companion of Paul? He continued his preparation with Paul as his mentor for several years. Timothy persisted and had a long a fruitful ministry, reportedly being martyred at the age of 80 as he rebuked others for parading idols though the street.
The Lord uses our life experiences to fulfill His plan for us, but we need to continue to prepare. Moses, Samuel, David, Daniel and Esther are just a few of the examples. He will use our life experiences. But we need to be persistent!
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.
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