The February employment situation report continued to show strength in the labor market. Non-farm payrolls were up a strong 235,000 (35,000 above pre-report expectations). In addition, BLS raised their strong January estimate by 11,000. At 227,00, private payrolls were more than 25,000 above pre-report forecasts. The unemployment rate fell to an expected 4.7 percent. Average hourly earnings increased 0.2 percent for the month (compared to 0.1 percent in January but 0.1 percent less than pre-report forecasts). The length of the average workweek, at 34.4 hours, remained unchanged.
By industry sector, non-farm employment increased the most in education and health care services (62,000), construction (58,000), professional and business services (37,000) and manufacturing (28,000). Retail trade lost 26,000 jobs, and utilities lost 1,000 jobs. All other industries had increased employment for the month of February. The monthly construction sector increase was the largest in 10 years.
In addition to employment increases, the drop in the number of adults who are not in the labor force was significant. Adults not in the labor force (not working and not looking for a job) was 95.102 million in December, 94.366 million in January and 94.190 million in February. In other words, those not in the labor force fell by 736,000 in January and 176,000 in February. The combined 912,000 two-month drop is the largest in history! Collectively, Americans have decided to get to work.
Too many believers are not in the kingdom labor force. The 21st century culture has created too many believers who are observers, but not participants. The growth of the church is hindered. Fulfilling of the Great Commission is slowed. Nonbelievers don't have as many examples of the love of Christ that Jesus died to give them. Believers don't mature into disciples. If we are still breathing, we have a responsibility to be about the works of God in the church, our families, our workplace and society. The eternal welfare of nonbelievers and our spiritual growth depends, to a large extent, or our willingness to enter the kingdom work force.
Today's culture teaches the antithesis of biblical guidance for believers. For example, too many believe that offense is justification to disengage. Others believe that they are too tired, busy, unprepared, young, old or sick to be about the Lord's work. Many have a sincere desire to work for the Lord in the future, but have reasoned that now is not the right timing. These cultural mores are incorrect.
The Great Commission should be our mission. Specifically, we should do everything we can to make disciples of Christ, baptize, teach and model obedience, and believe and provide assurance that Christ is with us.
"'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' Amen" (Matt. 28:19-20).
The parable of the sower provides insight into the strategies we should follow in doing the Lord's work. In particular, we should:
1. Know and clearly explain the Word of God.
"Therefore listen to the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one who received seed beside the path" (Matt. 13:18-19).
2. Be firmly rooted and help others mature.
"But he who received the seed on rocky ground is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, eventually he falls away" (Matt. 13:20-21).
3. Model and teach correct priorities.
"He also who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, but the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful" (Matt. 13:22).
4. Be fruitful and teach others to be fruitful.
"But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit. Some produce a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown" (Matt. 13:23).
As believers, we need to be in the kingdom work force. We are called to be disciples and not merely believers. Some have left the labor force. They need to repent and reenter the workforce of the Lord. Some have never entered the kingdom work force. They need to repent and get to work for the King.
This time is short, and the Lord is near. An eternal perspective and perseverance leads to eternal rewards.
"His master said to him, 'Well done, you good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things. I will make you ruler over many things. Enter the joy of your master' (Matt. 25:21).
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.
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