Employment report shows hike in distributor workers

When it provides the national employment report, once a month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also updates figures for numerous niches, including “NAICS 4231, Wholesale Trade, Electrical Equipment & Wiring.”

For these niches, however, the data is one month behind. So while the BLS came out with February data on the national picture, most niches were updated to provide the January number.

Below is a graphic, created via the BLS on-the-fly database, of employment for electrical distributors from January 2008 to January 2012.

In January, according to the preliminary BLS estimate, electrical distributors employed 141,300 people. That’s up 3.9% from two years ago and is the best single month the industry has posted since June 2009.

For the sake of comparison, below is a graphic, covering the same time period, for all wholesalers.

The official final average employment in NAICS 42361 for 2011 was printed on March 9 as well. The year’s average was 139,200, up from 2010’s 136,400. The highest total in the past 10 years came in 2007, when the electrical distribution industry employed 154,500; 2010 was the lowest in the past 10 years.

To look at what the electrical contractor industry is doing, here is a read-out on employment of “production and nonsupervisory workers” in that niche.  This provides a quick glimpse of field employment:

January: 543,800 employed, subject to revision next month. That’s down almost 3% from December 2011. Historically, the January over the past 10 years has always been lower than the month previous. The weather usually gets the blame, but it seemed to many that January’s weather in much of the U.S. was warmer than usual.

Year-to-year comparison: January 2012 electrical contractor field employment was up 1.08% from a year earlier. In January 2009, the downturn still had not yet hit the electrical contractor industry; it had 660,300 field workers employed.

Final number for 2011: With December data now revised, the 2011 annual average for electrical contractor field worker employment came in at 553,900. That’s down slightly from the 555,300 employed (on average) in 2010.

National data: With the creation of 223,000 jobs in February, the national employment report created some optimism.        

Relief was even seen in the U-6 measure of employment, the broadest unemployment number in the monthly BLS report (Table A-15). In February, on a seasonally adjusted basis, this “real” unemployment number fell from 16.2% in January to 15.6%

A “bearish” read on the optimistic February report would note that the BLS created 91,000 jobs (before seasonal adjustment) through its “Birth/Death” model—an attempt to estimate jobs created that BLS economists have no way to track.

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