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The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its much-anticipated September Employment Situation Report. Stock market traders had been hoping that a weaker than expected report would cause the Fed to pivot with its plans to aggressively fight inflation by increasing interest rates and reducing liquidity (via balance sheet reductions). Traders were disappointed with the report.
Total nonfarm payrolls showed an increase of 263K (250K expected, 315K previously). Private nonfarm payrolls increased 288K (265K expected, 275K previously). The unemployment rate surprisingly fell from 3.7% to 3.5%. The stronger employment numbers and unemployment rate provide little justification for the Fed to pivot its inflation fighting policies—implying a harder landing (deeper recession) is more likely.
A worrisome estimate in the report was the unexpected drop in the participation rate. The participation rate shows the percentage of the working age population that are in the labor force (either working or looking for work). The participation rate fell from 62.4% to 62.3% in September compared to a pre-COVID Trump high of 63.4%. Retirements, more generous social nets (food stamps, welfare, stimulus payments, enhanced unemployment benefits) and drops in inflation-adjusted real wages account for the lower participation rate.
The labor force currently appears to be a less motivated work force. Output per hour is a major metric responsible for wages, economic growth, and the long-term standard of living in the U. S. It is currently at a 40+ year low. Gallup suggests “quiet quitting” makes up at least 50% of the U. S. workforce. Quiet quitting is defined as workers choosing to just meet their job descriptions and not go above and beyond their responsibilities at work.
According to these metrics, many in the U. S. workforce appear to be choosing to not participate, either by dropping out of the workforce, being less productive, or quiet quitting. Labor force engagement and productivity is far more complicated than the few metrics we discussed, but long-term implications are still bothersome.
When the Lord taught the disciples how to pray, He specifically instructed them to pray that the Father’s will be done on earth like it is in heaven and for the Father’s kingdom to come. We have a responsibility to not only pray, but to do all in our power, to demonstrate the Father’s will until the Kingdom is here in its fullness.
“Pray, then, in this way: Our Father, who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven,’” (Matthew 6:9-10, NASB 2020).
The terms “kingdom of Heaven” and “kingdom of God” are often used interchangably in the Bible, especially in Matthew which was written for a Jewish audience. For purposes of this article, the Kingdom of Heaven is defined as the place of the throne of God where the Father and Jesus now dwell. The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom for now that impacts the physical world, will be a physical Kingdom during the millennium, and will eventually be presented to the Father where the kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven will merge.
Are too many Christians choosing to limit their current participation in the kingdom of God? Are too many Christians, who have been fully saved by grace, biding time until they are either called home or raptured? Have too many in the body of Christ believed the lie that they are without the power, training, or giftings to make a difference?
Participating in the kingdom of God involves more than going to church for an hour on Sunday. As a business owner, manager, or employee we have opportunity to model Christ even if we can’t explicitly talk about our faith at our jobs. We can be encouraging to the discouraged, be peaceful when everyone is stressed, go the extra mile when everyone is shirking, show compassion when everyone is judgmental, optimistic when everyone is pessimistic, demonstrate the highest ethical standards when everyone is cutting ethical corners, and be optimistic instead of pessimistic.
Whether we are called to business, education, government, medicine, entertainment, media, the pulpit, our homes, or a host of other vocations, we can make a difference. We are children of God, have the Spirit of the Most-High God inside of us, and the sure promises of the word. We need to be on our very best behavior because of Who we represent. We cannot be lazy for example and expect our colleagues to respect our God.
By following God, we can also expect His favor. Joseph was a slave in Egypt, but his owner recognized that God was with him, and the Lord prospered him in all that he did, so he put him in charge of all his possessions. As a prisoner, the warden recognized that God was with Joseph, that the Lord prospered him, and he put him in charge of all the other prisoners. Pharaoh recognized that God was with Him because of his supernatural dream interpretation, and he put Joseph in charge of Egypt. (See Genesis 39-41.)
A similar pattern was followed by Daniel. He and his three friends, as slaves, determined to follow God’s dietary requirements. They prospered, were shown favor, and entered the King’s court.
Through supernatural dream interpretation Daniel was promoted and he saw that his friends were also promoted. Other leaders were jealous of Daniel and tried to find grounds to accuse him, but none could be found.
The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, joy, and power (Romans 14:17, 1 Corinthians 4:20). We are told that all things will be provided if we seek His kingdom and righteousness first (Matthew 6:33).
Let us decide to participate in the kingdom of God now.
James R. Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.