Unemployment Rate Edges Down to 3.8 Percent

U.S. employers added over 303,000 jobs in March as job creation continues to move forward, according to this morning’s U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report. A separate report from Robert Half found that the job market will remain resilient through the first half of the year. Let’s take a closer look!

April 5, 2024 – Employment rose by 303,000 in March as the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent, according to the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report. The number of unemployed persons was 6.4 million in March. Job gains occurred in healthcare, government, and construction. “This is another really strong report,” said Lauren Goodwin, economist and chief market strategist at New York Life Investments. “This report and the February report showed some broadening in terms of job creation, which is a very good sign.”

“The blockbuster 303,000 increase in non-farm payrolls in March supports the Fed’s position that the resilience of the economy means it can take its time with rate cuts, which might now not begin until the second half of this year,” Capital Economics chief North America economist Paul Ashworth wrote in a note to clients.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for Blacks (6.4 percent) increased in March, while the rates for Asians (2.5 percent) and Hispanics (4.5 percent) decreased. The jobless rates for adult men (3.3 percent), adult women (3.6 percent), teenagers (12.6 percent), and Whites (3.4 percent) showed little or no change over the month. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more), at 1.2 million, was little changed in March. The long-term unemployed accounted for 19.5 percent of all unemployed people. Both the labor force participation rate, at 62.7 percent, and the employment-population ratio, at 60.3 percent, were little changed in March. These measures showed little change over the year.

The number of people employed part time for economic reasons, at 4.3 million, changed little in March. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs. In March, the number of people not in the labor force who currently want a job, at 5.4 million, was little changed. These individuals were not counted as unemployed because they were not actively looking for work during the 4 weeks preceding the survey or were unavailable to take a job.

Among those not in the labor force who wanted a job, the number of people marginally attached to the labor force, at 1.6 million, was little changed in March. These individuals wanted and were available for work and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months but had not looked for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. The number of discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached who believed that no jobs were available for them, was little changed at 337,000 in March.

Where Job Growth Occurred 

• Healthcare added 72,000 jobs in March, above the average monthly gain of 60,000 over the prior 12 months. In March, job growth continued in ambulatory healthcare services (+28,000), hospitals (+27,000), and nursing and residential care facilities (+18,000).

• In March, employment in government increased by 71,000, higher than the average monthly gain of 54,000 over the prior 12 months. Over the month, employment increased in local government (+49,000) and federal government (+9,000).

• Construction added 39,000 jobs in March, about double the average monthly gain of 19,000 over the prior 12 months. Over the month, employment increased in nonresidential specialty trade contractors (+16,000).

• Employment in leisure and hospitality trended up in March (+49,000) and has returned to its pre-pandemic February 2020 level. Over the prior 12 months, job growth in the industry had averaged 37,000 per month.

Related: 5 Recruitment Trends to Look Out for in 2024

• Employment in the other services industry continued its upward trend in March (+16,000). The industry had added an average of 8,000 jobs per month over the prior 12 months. Employment in other services remains below its February 2020 level by 40,000, or 0.7 percent.

• Employment in social assistance continued to trend up in March (+9,000), below the average monthly gain of 22,000 over the prior 12 months.

• In March, employment was little changed in retail trade (+18,000). A job gain in general merchandise retailers (+20,000) was partially offset by job losses in building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers (-10,000) and in automotive parts, accessories, and tire retailers (-3,000).

• Employment showed little or no change over the month in other major industries, including mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction; manufacturing; wholesale trade; transportation and warehousing; information; financial activities; and professional and business services.

Hiring Challenges Persist

The job market will remain resilient through the first half of 2024, research from talent solutions and business consulting firm Robert Half shows. According to the company’s State of U.S. Hiring Survey, 57 percent of respondents plan to add new permanent positions in the first six months of the year, while another 39 percent anticipate hiring for vacated positions. More than two-thirds (67 percent) expect to hire contract workers as part of their staffing strategy.

Strategic Talent Acquisition Planning in 2024
In the competitive landscape of talent acquisition and executive-level hiring, having a well-curated strategic plan is crucial. With the year coming to a close, a new report from McDermott + Bull’s Jason Levi Pinegar explains that it becomes pivotal to map out an executive hiring and human capital strategy for 2024 to ensure sustained success, talent retention, and future growth. The report looks into key areas to streamline your executive recruiting and leadership strategies for the upcoming year.

“Looking back over the last several years, the talent landscape has witnessed unprecedented candidate mobility and significant recalibrations,” the McDermott + Bull report said. “As a significant number of boomers approach retirement, organizations face the challenge of replacing them. The market, increasingly filled with less experienced candidates, will make recruitment progressively more demanding.”

Among managers who plan to increase hiring, more than two-thirds (66 percent) cited company growth as the primary factor influencing their hiring decisions for the first half of 2024. In addition, more than three-quarters (77 percent) of managers who had to put projects on hold in 2023 said they plan to pick them back up in the new year.

While hiring is expected to increase, finding the right talent may not be easy. According to the survey, 90 percent of hiring managers report difficulty finding skilled professionals, and 58 percent said it takes longer to hire for open roles compared to one year ago. Some of the top factors contributing to hiring challenges include:

  • Finding candidates who align with the company culture (49percent).
  • Meeting candidates’ salary expectations (48percent).
  • Lack of candidates applying for open roles (42percent).

“Job openings continue to exceed the number of professionals looking for work,” said Dawn Fay, operational president of Robert Half. “With hiring expected to increase early in the year, employers need to have a strategic hiring plan in order to land the talent they need.”

Companies Need a Retention Plan

While workers aren’t leaving their jobs at the same rate they were during the Great Resignation, many organizations are worried about turnover. When asked about their top concerns, 91 percent of managers cited retaining top talent, and 88 percent said they worry about keeping teams motivated and engaged.

“While hiring will be a priority next year, managers shouldn’t lose sight of their current teams,” said Ms. Fay. “Now is the time to prioritize employee engagement and retention to avoid turnover and loss of productivity. Routinely researching and adjusting compensation levels, offering flexible work, and implementing policies to alleviate burnout are all effective strategies.”

Related: What Talent Acquisition Trends Will Dominate 2024?

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Executive Editor; Lily Fauver, Senior Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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