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Glassdoor Economist Describes U.S. Economy As 'A Red Hot Labor Market'


Here is one way to describe the economy in this country.

ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: A red-hot labor market.

MCEVERS: That's Andrew Chamberlain. He's chief economist for Glassdoor. That's the jobs and recruiting website. And that is his assessment after today's new report from the Labor Department. It shows that 211,000 jobs were added in April and that the unemployment rate has dipped to 4.4 percent. And Andrew, that rate hasn't been that low in a while. But what does it actually mean?

CHAMBERLAIN: May 2007 was the last time we had a 4.4 percent unemployment rate. That was a long time ago. So that was before the first iPhone was released. And my company, Glassdoor, wasn't even around back then.

MCEVERS: Oh, wow.


MCEVERS: I love you're measuring it in iPhone years (laughter).

CHAMBERLAIN: Yeah. And this is a continuation of this strong, slow, growing labor market. We're 94 months now into this economic expansion. So you know, that's eight years, and there's a lot of young millennials today who in their entire young working careers have never seen a really weak labor market.

MCEVERS: So it's expanding - the economy - but where exactly is it expanding? I mean from what you're seeing, what jobs are most in demand?

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, the big job generator so far in the last few years has been health care. That is really the 800-pound gorilla of the labor market. It's generating tons of jobs. About 20 percent of job openings in America are in health care. And we're also seeing pay growing pretty fast for roles like registered nurse and emergency medical technician.

So without question, health care is a big contributor. But today we're also seeing gains in some surprising jobs like warehouse associates. These are, like, the frontline employees fueling the supply chain for Amazon and Wal-Mart, and we're seeing jobs and pay pick up for those roles also.

MCEVERS: And you wrote today that Glassdoor, your company, has seen an increase in manufacturing job postings during President Trump's first hundred days. Do you think that's tied to his policies and promises about these jobs?

CHAMBERLAIN: We have to be careful about crediting too much to the administration because not much policy has changed. Job openings are forward-looking, and they can reflect optimism by companies.


CHAMBERLAIN: But they don't necessarily translate into real hirings. We're going to have to wait and see there. In today's jobs report, we didn't see big manufacturing hiring gains. So to some extent, it could just be, you know, people's optimism sometimes is more about signaling their - what political tribe they view themselves as part of rather than their real expectations about the economy.

MCEVERS: I want to ask about what people are actually getting paid, and today's jobs report shows that while more people might have jobs, the wages they're making in many of those jobs are actually going down. Just talk about that a little bit. What's happening there?

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, they've - wage growth has been sluggish for years. And although there's some evidence that it's finally starting to pick up, it's not as high as most economists would expect. But what we see is a really diverse picture in wage gains. So if you live in Los Angeles or Seattle, you're seeing your median pay for full-time workers growing at 3 or 4 percent year over year. But if you live in Houston or Philadelphia, it's only growing about 1 to 1-and-a-half percent. So it's not just what you do for a living that affects pay growth, but it's where you do it.

MCEVERS: It's where you live.

CHAMBERLAIN: It's where you live, absolutely. Labor markets really are a place for a particular occupation at a point in time. And you know, we've got a 160 million-person labor market. It's a pretty diverse picture inside there.

MCEVERS: Yeah, I mean what is it about places like Philadelphia that mean it's not working for people? Is it just that there's not as diverse of industry there?

CHAMBERLAIN: Philadelphia is a city that is trying to reinvent itself for a new economy, and it's sort of struggled to find its way. And so for a variety of reasons, we're just not seeing the strong pay growth there that we see in places like Boston or New York or D.C. In places like Houston, of course they've been hit hard by low energy prices, and that's part of the reason we're seeing low pay gains there.

MCEVERS: Andrew Chamberlain is Chief Economist at Glassdoor. Thank you so much.


(SOUNDBITE OF BONOBO'S "GYPSY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.