Unemployment Rate Falls to 3.8 Percent 

The U.S. economy added back the most jobs since July 2021 in February, with job growth accelerating even in the already-tight labor market as new Omicron cases from earlier this year came down. Mark Farrington of Buffkin / Baker joins Hunt Scanlon to discuss what he is seeing in the job market and how his firm has adjusted. 

March 4, 2022 – Employment rose by 678,000 in February as the U.S. unemployment rate edged up to 3.8 percent, according to the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report. Job growth was widespread, led by gains in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, healthcare, and construction. The number of unemployed persons edged down to 6.3 million. In February 2020, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, and the number of unemployed persons was 5.7 million.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (3.5 percent) and Hispanics (4.4 percent) declined in February. The jobless rates for adult women (3.6 percent), teenagers (10.3 percent), Whites (3.3 percent), Blacks (6.6 percent), and Asians (3.1 percent) showed little or no change over the month. Among the unemployed, the number of persons on temporary layoff, at 888,000 in February, was little changed over the month. The number of permanent job losers, at 1.6 million in February, also changed little. Both measures are higher than their February 2020 levels of 780,000 and 1.3 million, respectively.

Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell offered an upbeat assessment of the U.S. economic backdrop during his semi-annual address before Congress earlier this week. “The labor market is extremely tight … improvements in labor market conditions have been widespread, including for workers at the lower end of the wage distribution as well as for African Americans and Hispanics,” Mr. Powell said during his testimony before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday.

“Labor demand is very strong, and while labor force participation has ticked up, labor supply remains subdued,” Mr. Powell said. “As a result, employers are having difficulties filling job openings, an unprecedented number of workers are quitting to take new jobs, and wages are rising at their fastest pace in many years.”

Where Job Growth Occurred

• Employment in leisure and hospitality continued to increase, with a gain of 179,000 in February. Job growth occurred in food services and drinking places (+124,000) and in accommodation (+28,000). Since February 2020, employment in leisure and hospitality is down by 1.5 million, or 9.0 percent.

• Professional and business services added 95,000 jobs in February. Job gains occurred in temporary help services (+36,000), management of companies and enterprises (+12,000), management and technical consulting services (+10,000), and scientific research and development services (+8,000). Employment in professional and business services is 596,000 higher than in February 2020, largely in temporary help services (+240,000), computer systems design and related services (+154,000), and management and technical consulting services (+152,000).

• Employment in healthcare rose by 64,000 in February. Job gains occurred in home healthcare services (+20,000), offices of physicians (+15,000), and offices of other health practitioners (+12,000). Employment in health care is down by 306,000, or 1.9 percent, from its level in February 2020.

• Construction added 60,000 jobs in February, following little change in the prior month. About three-fourths of the over-the-month job gain occurred in specialty trade contractors, with increases in both the residential (+24,000) and nonresidential (+20,000) components. Construction employment is slightly below (-11,000) its February 2020 level.

• Employment in transportation and warehousing increased by 48,000 in February and is 584,000 higher than in February 2020. Over the month, job gains continued in warehousing and storage (+11,000), couriers and messengers (+9,000), support activities for transportation (+9,000), and air transportation (+7,000). All four of these component industries have surpassed their February 2020 employment levels, with particularly strong job growth in warehousing and storage (+420,000) and couriers and messengers (+240,000).

• Employment in retail trade rose by 37,000 in February, with gains in building material and garden supply stores (+12,000), furniture and home furnishings stores (+6,000), and gasoline stations (+5,000). Retail trade employment is 104,000 above its level in February 2020.

• Manufacturing added 36,000 jobs in February. Employment in durable goods industries rose by 20,000, with job gains in fabricated metal products (+11,000), machinery (+8,000), electrical equipment and appliances (+4,000), nonmetallic mineral products (+3,000), furniture and related products (+3,000), and primary metals (+3,000). These gains were partially offset by a job loss in motor vehicles and parts (-18,000). Nondurable goods manufacturing also added jobs over the month (+16,000). Since February 2020, manufacturing employment is down by 178,000, or 1.4 percent.

• In February, employment in financial activities rose by 35,000. Job gains were split between finance and insurance (+16,000) and real estate (+16,000). Employment in financial activities is 31,000 above its level in February 2020.

• Social assistance added 31,000 jobs in February, with a gain of 21,000 jobs in individual and family services. Since February 2020, employment in social assistance is down by 152,000, or 3.5 percent.

• Employment increased by 25,000 in the other services industry in February, led by a gain in repair and maintenance (+10,000). Employment in the other services industry is down by 317,000, or 5.3 percent, from its level in February 2020.

• Wholesale trade added 18,000 jobs in February; employment in the industry is 113,000, or 1.9 percent, lower than in February 2020.

• Mining employment rose by 9,000 in February, with gains in support activities for mining (+6,000) and in oil and gas extraction (+2,000). Mining employment has grown by 62,000 since a recent low in February 2021.

• Employment showed little or no change over the month in information and government.

Veteran Recruiting Weighs In

Mark Farrington is an operating partner in the healthcare practice at Buffkin / Baker. He works to secure talent and expertise in healthcare technology, information security, laboratory and consumer application across the spectrum of healthcare. Mr. Farrington has more than 35 years of experience in healthcare technology and technology services, onsite healthcare, and diagnostic laboratory companies.

Mr. Farrington recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss the economic recovery, hiring, and how his firm has adjusted to working with clients and candidates during the post-pandemic era. Following are excerpts from that discussion.

    Mark Farrington

Mark, what are your thoughts about an economic recovery? 

Certainly, the signals from a macro perspective have been inconsistent. While certain sectors have seen record profits and growth in spite of the pandemic, others are still not fully recovered, primarily due to worker shortages, higher costs for new hires and retention, and the impact of unprecedented resignations in the workforce. Our firm has benefitted from these trends as we are seeing record levels of search volume, as well as a very strong pipeline across all our practice areas. We have experienced tremendous demand in our digital, higher education, and healthcare practices specifically, as well as a surge in private equity portfolio company opportunities.

What are some of the challenges you’re seeing right now? 

We are seeing shifts in candidates’ expectations regarding compensation, in line with generally expected increases in inflation and worker shortages. In addition, we will have not fully fleshed out the “post-pandemic” expectations associated with remote/virtual and hybrid work settings, compared to in-office expectations. Some of our opportunities require a person to be in-office, or in-market and oftentimes excellent candidates are choosing to opt-out of search consideration based on those criteria.

“We have experienced tremendous demand in our digital, higher education, and healthcare practices specifically, as well as a surge in private equity portfolio company opportunities.”

Has your firm adjusted in how it serves clients? 

Prior to the pandemic, we had kicked off a significant initiative for our own digital & technology transformation, including migration to a new candidate management system/ATS as well as a firm-wide implementation of Microsoft Teams. In addition, we migrated all our legacy telephone systems to Virtual/VOIP solutions which “untethered” our work persona from a physical office. It happened just in time, as we were able to move to a remote work setting without any disruptions in our key communications infrastructure. Our team members adjusted well, and the new ATS systems have introduced efficiency and more effective client and candidate communications to maintain an excellent search experience.

Related: Major Paradigm Shifts Coming Out of the Coronavirus Crisis

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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