The economy added more jobs in February than nearly everyone was expecting. The Bureau of Labor Statistics report showed that non-farm payrolls were up 242,000 for the month (compared to 172,000 in January). Private payrolls increased by 230,000 in February versus 182,000 in January.
Both reports were well above analysts' predictions. In addition, the proportion of the working age population which were either working or looking for a job increased by 0.2 percent (the second month in a row in which it increased). The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.9 percent.
But, the report was not all positive. Average hourly earnings fell by -0.1 percent for the month (compared to a 0.5 percent increase in January). In addition, the average workweek fell by 0.2 hours per week to 34.4 hours in February. Although there were more jobs, workers were earning less per hour and working less hours per week.
Looking beyond the headlines, the increase in employment was in near-minimum wage part-time jobs. By sector, the largest number of jobs were created in services: health care and social assistance (57,000), retail trade (55,000), and food and drinking places (40,000). The number of part-time jobs increased by 304,000, while full-time work fell by 62,000. Negatives of the report would loom even larger if the number of part-time workers holding multiple jobs were considered. The employment increase, indicated by the report, were not career jobs.
As citizens of the kingdom, we need to regularly examine our motives. Are we motived by our careers? Are we motivated by our calling? Our calling is directly related to our purpose. In general, we are called to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love others as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39).
But, we each have a specific purpose and receive an anointing to accomplish all that God has called us to do. If we are motivated by anything other than pleasing our King, we risk not accomplishing all that we were purposed to do.
Our specific calling can be in the pulpit, mission field, classroom, business, media, government service, hospitals, prison, arts, home and/or a variety of other areas. Often our careers are intertwined with our calling, but they are not the same. Our calling always has eternal consequences to ourselves and others. Fulfilled callings produce eternal fruit.
Productive careers benefit us, our families, our churches and society. Children go to school, young adults attend college or vocational schools, and apprenticeships are undertaken to prepare for a career. As our careers develop, we attempt to continuously grow our technical, management and leadership skills. We build, maintain and grow our professional network. We develop short, medium, and long-term career objectives. We plan for retirement. In and of themselves, careers are not the problem.
But careers can also cause issues, if our priorities are not correct. Sometimes, what would be best for our career, is not what is best for the kingdom, our families, or our calling. Career enhancing decisions could be a clear violation of a scriptural principle.
In other situations, the resources (the amount of time, our focus, location) required to advance our careers would prohibit us from fulfilling our calling. Paul was a tent maker, but he was an apostle to the gentiles first. We are still reaping the benefits of Paul's commitment to the Lord and the calling with which He entrusted him.
The Lord is clear. There are no tradeoffs between our careers and the kingdom. He is first. He is our Master. He is our focus. His Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit are primary. He has promised us provision. He loves us and wants us to have a truly abundant life. (Matthew 6:24, Matthew 13:22-23, Matthew 6:33, John 10:10).
Dr. James R. Russell is professor of economics and chair of the Undergraduate College of Business at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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