PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup's Job Creation Index -- based on 15,884 U.S. employees' self-reports of hiring and firing activity at their workplaces -- shows that perceptions of current job market conditions nationwide improved slightly in February compared to January. Conditions continue to be best in the South and weakest in the West, are improving in the Midwest, and deteriorating slightly in the East.
Twenty-five percent of employees nationwide in February told Gallup their companies are hiring, an increase from 23% in January; 23% said their companies are letting people go (vs. 24% in January). As is now well recognized, firing is down considerably from the level seen during much of 2009. On the other hand, hiring remains in the same tight range it has exhibited over the past year.
South: Remains the Best Job Market
Hiring in the South, at 27%, is highest of any region -- and essentially the same as January's 26%, while the 22% "firing" is tied for lowest with the Midwest. The South has generally had a stronger job market than other regions over the past two years, and higher year-over-year oil prices have helped the keep the job situation in the South so positioned.
East: Continued Deterioration
Job market conditions in the East continued to worsen in February, with 24% of employers hiring -- down slightly from 25% in January and 26% in December. Simultaneously, 23% of employers are letting people go -- up slightly from 22% in January and 21% in December. The end of the financial crisis and the sharp gains on Wall Street had led to a substantially improved job market in this part of the country, but in recent months, some of those gains seem to have dissipated.
Midwest: Continued Improvement
Midwestern job market conditions improved again in February. The source of the improvement is an increase in hiring to 25% from 22% in January; firing was unchanged at 22%. Midwest job market conditions continue to benefit from the improvement in the manufacturing sector during recent months.
West: Worst of the Regions but Showing Modest Improvement
Conditions in the West improved modestly, with 22% hiring in February -- up from 20% the prior month -- and 27% letting employees go (improved from 29%). While manufacturing and exports are helping job market conditions in the West, this region continues to suffer from some particularly weak housing markets.
Gallup's Job Creation Index shows a slight improvement in job market conditions in February, and this is consistent with Gallup's findings that underemployment remained flat and the unemployment rate improved slightly last month.
Wednesday's ADP report showed private-sector companies letting go of an estimated 20,000 employees in February -- the fewest in two years. In addition, the Challenger, Gray, and Christmas report showed planned layoffs decreasing to 42,090 last month.
Friday's Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment report for February is expected to show an increase, possibly in part owing to the weather, which forced some businesses to close temporarily and made it difficult for employees to get to their jobs. Seasonal adjustments will also influence the government's unemployment rate, while Gallup's employment measures are not adjusted in this way -- not to mention that they are based on a significantly different survey methodology.
Regardless of what numbers the government reports on Friday, Gallup data show that hiring remains about as weak as it has been over the past year, and that about one in five Americans are underemployed. It is little surprise, then, that many Americans continue to see the economy, including unemployment, as the nation's most important problem.
Learn more about Gallup's economic measures.
For Gallup Daily tracking, Gallup interviews approximately 1,000 national adults, aged 18 and older, each day. The Gallup consumer spending results are based on random half-samples of approximately 1,000 national adults, aged 18 and older, each day. The Gallup Job Creation Index results are based on a random sample of approximately 500 current full- and part-time employees each day.
Regional results for February are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews totaling more than 3,000 in each region. For each total regional sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones and cellular phones.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.