The recently released employment situation report was a disaster. During May, the U.S. economy added a mere 38,000 jobs, compared to last month's increase (before revisions) of 160,000; expectations for this report's increase was also near 160,000. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also revised March and April employment downward a total of 59,000 jobs.
The trend is not good. Using the revised numbers, the monthly increase in employment was down 47,000 for March, 63,000 for April, and 85,000 for May.
BLS lowered the unemployment rate from 5.0 percent to 4.7 percent as a result of 458,000 leaving the workforce (through retirements, discouraged job-seeking, end of unemployment benefits, etc.). Similarly, the percentage of the working-age population either employed or actively seeking employment fell from 62.8 to 62.6 percent. May saw an increase of 664,000 people not in the workforce. In May, we also saw an increase of 605,000 part-time jobs (468,000 of them involuntary).
The report confirms U.S. economic woes and concerns. Over the last decade, more than 17 million people are no longer in the labor force. Median, inflation adjusted, family incomes are declining. Business investment is down. Public, corporate, and student debt is burdensome and unsustainable. U.S. stock markets prices appear overvalued by most measures. Central banks are running out of tools to stimulate the economy. Global economic risks exist with Japan, China, much of Europe, Brazil, and many emerging economies. Expect markets and future economic reports to further confirm economic weakness.
In the kingdom, we are expected to be involved in confirmation. We should confirm the Word and the Lord's faithfulness, wisdom, power and grace to ourselves and others. This confirmation was responsible for the growth of the early church and will be responsible for increase today. The Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever.
"These signs will accompany those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover" (Mark 16:17-18, MEV).
"Then they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen" (Mark 16:20, MEV).
Stephen is a good example of a layman confirming the Word with the power of the Holy Spirit through signs and wonders. Hellenistic widows were murmuring about being overlooked in the daily food distribution and the issue was taking the apostles time (Acts 6:1-3). They decided to choose seven men full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom to handle the issue (Acts 6:4). Stephen was also known to be full of faith and was chosen to be one of the first deacons (Acts 6:5). The faithfulness of the seven allowed the apostles to spread the Word and resulted in a rapid increase in the numbers of disciples of Christ (Acts 6:7).
The Scriptures say that Stephen was full of faith and power; that he did great wonders and miracles among the people (Acts 6:8). His reputation eventually resulted in his martyrdom. But his bold defense probably gave inspiration to Paul during his ministry, and his death resulted in the rapid growth of the church beyond Jerusalem.
We need the characteristics that Stephen possessed. He was full of the Holy Spirit, wisdom, faith and boldness. By confirming the power of the gospel, the church experienced rapid growth and the confirmation he gave helped to populate heaven. We need to do likewise.
"By Him you are enriched in everything, in all speech and in all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift while waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 1:5-7, MEV).
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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