December's employment situation report was disappointing. Total non-farm payrolls were estimated to be 156,000 (48,000 lower than November, and 19,000 lower than pre-report expectations).
Private payrolls were 144,000 (54,0000 lower than November and 21,000 below predictions). Average hourly earnings increased a higher than expected 0.4 percent for the month. The average workweek fell 0.1 of an hour to 34.3 hours per week. The labor force participation rate is near a 35-year low at 62.7 percent.
A record 95,102,000 people are not in the labor force (18,000 higher for the month, 841,000 higher over the last three months, 14.6 million higher over the last eight years). To be in the labor force, an individual must be working or looking for work. Individuals can drop out of the labor force because of retirement, school, family responsibility or they can just become discouraged from looking for work.
Many have speculated on reasons for the mass exodus from the work force. If we examine data for those of prime working age (25-55 years old) from the December report, we find that 23,477,000 are not working or looking for a job. The number is 164,000 higher for the month, 458,000 higher for the last three months and 1,961,000 higher over the last eight years.
Many of these working-age adults simply do not want to work (93.2 percent of men and 95.1 percent of women). The rest want to work, but can't because of various reasons. The number of work force dropouts is a problem for the economy.
All believers are called to be soldiers in the Lord's army. We have different responsibilities and callings, but all should be actively engaged in the battle between good and evil, righteousness and sin, light and darkness, faith and unbelief, abundance and lack, and ultimately God and Satan. Unfortunately, too many believers have dropped out of the Lord's army; they are AWOL (absent without leave) or have deserted. Others feel as though they never enlisted. The number of believers who are not engaged as soldiers in the Lord's army is a problem for the kingdom; fewer people are reached, supported, trained and helped.
The kingdom needs apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to function optimally. The kingdom also needs intercessors, administrators, musicians, nursery workers, hospital visitors, greeters and service helpers of all kinds. The kingdom needs strong families and individuals. It needs the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit to be fully operating in the body. The kingdom needs love, holiness, faith and courage.
As Christians, we will fight the spiritual battles of a soldier. The issue is not whether we will be attacked; the issue is whether we will be victorious. Does the status quo satisfy us, or do we want to accomplish all that the Lord has ordained? Will our ministries, families and individuals emerge from the battles stronger or weaker, defeated or victorious?
We need to recognize:
- We are already in a spiritual battle for our nation, churches, ministries, families and ourselves. "For our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12).
- We need to put on the whole armor of God. "Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil" (Eph. 6:11).
- Pray in the Spirit and be on the alert. "Pray in the Spirit always with all kinds of prayer and supplication. To that end be alert with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints," (Eph. 6:18).
We are in already in a war. Let us enter the fight as fully trained soldiers with the full armor and power of our God.
"The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore, let us take off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light" (Rom. 13:12).
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.
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