The U.S. economy added 248,000 jobs in September, pushing the unemployment rate to 5.9 percent, the first time it's dipped below the 6-percentage floor since July 2008—or more than 320 weeks.
One month is just one month, and, as always, these numbers are subject to dramatic revisions. But with January through September in the books, there is enough data from the year for economist Bill McBride to think about putting champagne on ice, if not quite popping the corks. The economy is "on pace to be the best year for both total and private sector job growth since 1999," he writes. The following graph compares our 2014 trend line with the last 14 years of job creation.*
The 21st Century, Ranked (thousands of jobs)
Economy is a plural noun. When we say "it" is doing well or poorly, what we are really saying is that a constellation of various industries, each growing at dramatically different paces, has a total rate of growth that corresponds with a certain adjective—booming, busting, crushing, collapsing, and so on.
So which industries are spearheading the best year for job creation of this millennium? It starts with professional and business services, that catch-all for white-collar work that includes lawyers, consultants, accountants, and managers of all stripes. Filling out the awards podium are two low-paying industries, food services and retail, in silver and bronze, respectively.