By official estimates, the U.S. labor market in 2014 was the strongest it has been since 1999. Yet for all the new jobs that were created last year, growth was not evenly distributed across every industry. What sectors, then, led the resurgent labor market and helped drive down the unemployment rate?
As with anything that has to do with the massive U.S. labor economy, there are no simple answers to that question. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the pace of hiring accelerated toward the end of the year, a trend that continued through January, with private employers adding an average of 336,000 new jobs over that three-month period.
Over the course of last year, the unemployment rate fell accordingly, dropping from 6.6% in January to 5.6% in December. Though it currently stands at 5.7%, economists argue that the uptick was fueled by an increase in the number of Americans who, likely encouraged by recent upbeat jobs reports, have reentered the labor market and are actively looking for work.
So, what were 2014’s hot industries? Construction, for starters, which added an average of more than 25,000 jobs per month last year. There are a number of sectors besides construction, however, that also helped drive the economy forward last year. We’ve highlighted the top job-creating industries here—hopefully their positive trends continue through 2015.
The U.S. manufacturing sector also showed growth throughout the year, with businesses continuing to increase their pace of hiring amid steadily rising demand for their products. Over the course of last year, in fact, American manufacturers added a net surplus of workers each month of the year, according to government data.
Healthcare, moreover, was among the sectors that displayed strong jobs growth last year. Fueled by, among other factors, increased demand for healthcare professionals at hospitals and clinicians’ offices around the U.S., private employers added new workers at a healthy clip in 2014, with job growth particularly strong toward the end of the year.
Though growth wasn’t assured at the beginning of 2014, U.S. retailers showed relatively strong jobs figures last year. After dipping in January and February, employment in retail trade climbed on a monthly basis, excluding a small dip in August. What’s more, economists were encouraged by January figures, when retailers added a seasonally adjusted 46,000 jobs. According to BLS data, retail trade employment is now just “26,000 jobs shy of the November 2007 peak.”