January's employment situation report had surprising strong payroll numbers. The month-to-month change in non-farm payrolls was 227,000 (70,000 above December and 52,000 more than forecasts). This was the largest monthly increase since September. Private payrolls were estimated to be 237,000 (72,000 above December and 57,000 more than predicted).
The civilian labor force increased by 76,000 as people re-entered the work force. Because of this larger work force, the unemployment rate went up by 0.1 percent to 4.8 percent, and the participation rate ticked up 0.2 percent to 62.9 percent. The average work week was unchanged at 34.4 hours.
Average hourly earnings were weak. Earnings were 0.1 percent higher than December after the Bureau of Labor statistics revised their December estimate down 0.2 percent. Analysts were expecting a 0.3 percent increase and no December revisions.
One of the sources of weak wages can be gleaned from the previous day's productivity and costs report. Fourth quarter labor productivity only grew at a 1.3 percent annual rate, versus the third quarter estimate of 3.5 percent. Lower productivity resulted in unit labor costs increasing at an annual rate of 1.7 percent versus 0.2 percent for the third quarter. If productivity falls, costs increase and workers' wages suffer.
Wage rates are the result of supply and demand. A larger work force increases supply and is negative for wages. Demand is a function of both productivity and revenue (related to the economy). If President Trump is able to implement his campaign promises, the economy should grow (increasing wages) and investment should also increase. More investment will spur productivity and increase wages. The economy needs investment.
As believers, we need to be making regular spiritual investments. An investment in our knowledge of the Word of God will pay dividends for the rest of our lives. The relationship that develops from prayer will enable us to overcome all obstacles, and allow us to be a true threat to the kingdom of darkness. Leading people to Christ has eternal ramifications. Sacrificing for the gospel generates returns in this life and eternally (Luke 10:29-30). As we walk in the love and power of Christ, the kingdom of God is truly near.
The Lord gave clear instructions on how to live a victorious life that is pleasing to Him. He gave us kingdom principles in the Bible. He sent the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us in all situations. Spiritual investments always pay dividends. They move us from a life of defeat and frustration to a life of fulfillment and significance.
Some of the time-tested, God-ordained, guaranteed principles include:
1. Keep a heavenly perspective. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in nor steal, for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt, 6:19-21).
2. Live a life of obedience. "Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I say? Whoever comes to Me and hears My words and does them, I will show whom he is like: He is like a man who built a house, and dug deep, and laid the foundation on rock. When the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, but could not shake it, for it was founded on rock" (Luke 6:46-48).
3. Live a sanctified life.
- Rejoice always.
- Pray always.
- Give thanks for everything.
- Examine all things.
- Hold firmly what is good.
- Abstain from the appearance of evil.
- Do not quench the Spirit.
- Do not despise prophecies.
"Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Examine all things. Firmly hold onto what is good. Abstain from all appearances of evil. May the very God of peace sanctify you completely" (1 Thess. 5:16-23a).
Everyone should invest in the future. Christians should invest in eternity.
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.
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