The hiring climate at the start of 2015 is similar to where it stood in the second half of 2014, with Gallup's U.S. Job Creation Index coming in at plus 28 for the month of January. This is nearly identical to the plus 27 found in December, and just below the seven-year high of plus 30 reached in September.
The index has experienced six years of incremental progress after bottoming out at minus 5 in February and April 2009. This includes sharp improvements in the first half of 2014, with the index increasing from plus 19 in January to plus 27 in May and June. Since then, progress has stalled, with the index staying within a narrow four-point range.
January's plus 28 score is the result of 40 percent of employees saying their employer is hiring workers and expanding the size of its workforce, and 12 percent saying their employer is letting workers go and reducing the size of its workforce. Forty-one percent reported no changes in staffing in their workplaces.
Nongovernment employees (plus 29) continue to report greater levels of hiring than government workers (plus 19). This has been the case in nearly all monthly readings since Gallup began tracking job creation in 2008. In January, 41 percent of nongovernment workers said their employers are hiring, while 12 percent said they are letting people go. Meanwhile, 36 percent of government workers reported staff increases and 17 percent, staff reductions.
U.S. workers' perceptions of hiring at their places of employment are the most positive Gallup has recorded in any January since Gallup began tracking this in 2008. But the increase since last January came mostly in the first half of 2014. The index has since stalled, suggesting that the future of the jobs situation in the U.S. remains uncertain. At the same time, at least two other indicators show growing economic optimism: Americans' confidence in the U.S. economy has improved significantly since early December, and over the same period, Americans have become much more optimistic when asked if it is a good time to find a quality job. Whether these sentiments prove to be advance indicators of hiring that is more visible across U.S. workplaces may partly depend on whether they help fuel more consumer spending.
Gallup's Job Creation Index is based on a question that Gallup tracks daily, asking a nationally representative sample of 500 to 600 working adults, aged 18 and older, and reports monthly based on approximately 14,000 interviews. Gallup asks its sample of employed Americans each day whether their companies are hiring new people and expanding the size of their workforces, not changing the size of their workforces, or letting people go and reducing the size of their workforces. The resulting index -- computed on a daily and a weekly basis by subtracting the percentage of employers letting people go from the percentage hiring -- is a real-time indicator of the nation's employment picture across all industry and business sectors. The survey is conducted with respondents contacted on landlines and cellphones.
The hiring and firing trends that are the basis for Gallup's Job Creation Index provide key new insights into the potential future direction of job market conditions. Gallup's Job Creation Index provides information not available in some government indicators. For example, the government's weekly new jobless claims measure only reflects workers filing for benefits, yet not everyone who is laid off files for unemployment. The index may also detect hiring trends days or weeks before they are manifested in the official unemployment rate or other lagging indicators. Gallup has tracked its Job Creation Index daily since January 2008.
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