The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released a block buster October Employment Report. The report was expected to be strong, but this report surprised nearly everyone with its across-the-board strength. Some of its highlights are listed below.
- An all-time record high of 156,562,000 Americans were employed in October.
- The unemployment rate remained at 3.7 percent (the lowest since 1969).
- Total non-farm employment increased by 250,000 for the month (versus 118,000 in September and forecasts near 200,000).
- Private employment increased 246,000 for the month (versus 121,000 in September and forecasts of 200,000).
- Manufacturing employment increased 32,000 (versus September's 18,000 and forecasts of 17,000). This was the highest monthly change since 1998.
- Hispanic unemployment fell to an all-time low of 4.4 percent.
- Black unemployment, at 6.2 percent is near the all-time low of 5.9 percent established in May.
- Americans who are not in the labor force (employed or searching for employment) fell by 497,000.
- Average hourly earnings increased 3.1 percent during the previous 12 months (the highest since 2009).
- Average weekly hours for all employees increased from 34.4 to 34.5 hours per week.
- The labor force participation rate (percentage of the workforce that are either working or looking for work) increased from 62.7 percent to 62.9 percent).
- The underemployment rate fell from 7.5 to 7.4 percent.
The economy is booming. The labor market is the strongest in nearly 50 years. Combined with the highest consumer confidence in 18 years, record-high small business confidence, and 3.5 percent growth in real GDP, the economy is creating opportunities for workers and businesses that have not been seen for a long time. Many of the younger generation have no experience with an economy that is creating this level of opportunity. Risks are present, and change is possible. But, at least currently, expect a very strong economy with increasing opportunities.
Every day, day-in and day-out, believers are faced with multiple opportunities to model the heart of the Lord. Many, and probably most, of these opportunities are God-given. We have the opportunity to say a kind word, to provide a compassionate ear, to provide a helping hand, to perform our work as unto the Lord, to walk in faith, and to demonstrate the love, power, and self-discipline of the Lord via the Holy Spirit.
"Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10).
We also have multiple daily opportunities to yield to the flesh. We can be angry, untruthful, impure, sensual, cowardly, lustful, greedy, proud, conceited and filled with unbelief. Instead of helping others, we will have plenty of opportunities to harm people. We can injure and even destroy others psychologically, socially, professionally, spirituality and physically.
"You, brothers, have been called to liberty. Only do not use liberty to give an opportunity to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For the entire law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Gal. 5:13-14).
A 17th century monk named Brother Lawrence (Nicholas Herman) wrote notes and letters on practicing the presence of God. These writings were later assembled and published in a book with the same title. He argued that we can learn to practice His presence and gain further intimacy in our daily activities. He has become renown even though he spent much of his life working in a kitchen. Perhaps "practice" has application to taking advantage of our opportunities.
Practice can be defined as a way of training through multiple repetitions or translating an idea into action. Both of these definitions line up with biblical injunctions. John tells us to practice righteousness and not to practice sin. Practice used in this instance can be defined as deliberately, knowingly and habitually. We are told to practice righteousness and not to deliberately, knowingly, and habitually practice sin. James tells us that faith without works is dead.
"Little children, let no one deceive you. The one who does righteousness is righteous, just as Christ is righteous. Whoever practices sin is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was revealed, that He might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:7-8).
"So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead" (James 2:17).
If believers would deliberately, knowingly and habitually practice righteousness, Christianity would explode, and this planet would be a far better place to live. Small acts of righteousness taken deliberately and habitually would change the world. The Lord will bring us opportunities to share His love. But are we prepared to take advantage of the opportunities?
Every born-again believer has doing good in his/her DNA. But too often our focus on the cares of the world allows a God given opportunity to go unfulfilled. The Lord told us to focus on His kingdom and His righteousness. If we can concentrate on doing small acts of God-honoring righteousness for a day, it could turn into a week, and then a month, and then the 6-7 weeks typically required to develop a habit. When we seek His kingdom and His righteousness, all things will be added to us.
"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be given to you" (Matt. 6:33).
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.
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