A new interactive dashboard offers a real time look at trends in employment, wages, and hours worked.

As the world continues to rebound from the pandemic, its true impact on the economy, and the labor market in particular, remains to be seen. In fact, the pandemic has made it even more complicated to make sense of economic data that is vital to helping decision-makers in the private and public sectors understand where the economy is currently and where it may be heading. To help better inform business owners, researchers, policymakers, journalists, and workers across the country, we are launching the Gusto Economic Trends Tracker. This dashboard provides a real-time look at developing economic trends in employment, wages, and hours worked. The available data can be further examined across businesses nationwide or filtered by industry, state, metropolitan area, age group, or gender.

By allowing access to Gusto’s unique data ahead of the government’s economic indicators we are providing a real time look at the patterns developing at more than 200,000 small- and medium sized businesses across America. As the economy shifts this data can add value to a business owner deciding whether to expand headcount or boost worker’s pay, for an employee navigating a confusing job landscape, or aid a policymaker identifying areas where and when public support is most needed. 

Below, we showcase three example use cases of key insights that can be drawn from using the Economic Trends Tracker. We will continue to update the tool and will add other metrics in the future that will support users looking to keep their finger on the pulse of the small- and medium-sized business economy. You can start digging into the insights in the tracker here.

Overall employment trends

First, there are a number of questions around the overall state of the economy right now, as policymakers, commentators, and workers across the country sort out conflicting signals. This dashboard can offer additional perspective surrounding the growth trends of small- and medium-sized businesses – often in advance of publicly-released statistics. For instance, the net hiring rate measures the percent change in employment each month among all companies using Gusto’s platform. Figure 1 plots this net hiring rate from January 2020 through June 2022. On net, employment grew by 1.8% in June 2022 – a rate slightly below the 2.3% growth seen last June and the 2.9% growth rate experienced in June 2021 as businesses re-emerged from pandemic-related shutdowns. This data suggests that small- and medium-sized businesses continue to see robust employment growth, although expansion has slowed from the accelerated rates seen earlier in this recovery.

Figure 1: Net Change in Employment (%): January 2020 – June 2022

Employment growth by metro area

Second, this data can be split out by several groups, such as age, gender, industry, state, and across the 50 largest metropolitan areas. Figure 2 plots the net hiring rates of the 20 metro areas growing the fastest over the past four months, offering a clearer picture of where in the US growth has remained strongest. While Boston has seen the fastest employment growth over the past four months (averaging 2.8%), the remaining 4 of the top 5 metro area, and 7 of the top 10, are located in the Midwest (Milwaukee, Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh – along with Minneapolis-St. Paul, Louisville, and Cincinnati), indicating that this part of the country has continued to grow quickly as other regions slow down. On the other hand, as displayed in Figure 3, cities on the West Coast and in Florida have seen weaker employment growth: Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa, and Orlando are among the 10 slowest-growing metro areas, along with Riverside, Portland, and Los Angeles.

Figure 2: Net Change in Employment (%) by Metro Area, Prior 4 Months: Top 10

Figure 3: Net Change in Employment (%) by Metro Area, Prior 4 Months: Bottom 10

Wage growth by Age Group

Finally, in addition to employment trends, in this dashboard we can examine trends in earnings and hours to better understand economic health beneath hiring and terminations. For example, in Figure 4 we plot average hourly earnings among all workers and by age group relative to June of last year. We can see that among all workers average hourly earnings have grown by 5.7% from June 2021 through June 2022, but there are large differences by age. While wages for workers 55 and older have grown more modestly at 2.4%, younger workers have cashed in on this tight labor market to secure wage increases far outpacing all workers. Workers 20-24 years old, typically new college graduates entering the labor market for the first time post-college, have seen earnings rise 18.1% over the past year, and teenagers, who continue to see a surge in hiring beyond any previous summer, have seen earnings rise 14.0% since last June.

Figure 4: Change in Average Hourly Earnings (%) by Age Group: Prior 12 Months

Luke Pardue Luke Pardue was an Economist at Gusto, researching how public policies help small businesses and their workers thrive. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, where he studied the effects of government programs on disadvantaged populations’ housing and labor market outcomes.
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