Unemployment Rate Falls to 4.2 Percent as Covid Concerns Surge

The U.S. economy added back fewer jobs than expected in November, while the unemployment rate fell further than anticipated to the lowest since February 2020 as Omicron worries continue to build. Veteran search consultant Jeff Rives of Chapel Hill Solutions sits down with Hunt Scanlon to discuss current trends in the market.

December 3, 2021 – Employment rose by 210,000 in November as the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 4.2 percent, according to the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report. This is well below the half-million gain that had been expected. The number of unemployed persons fell by 542,000 to 6.9 million. Notable job gains occurred in professional and business services, transportation and warehousing, construction, and manufacturing. Employment in retail trade declined over the month. Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (4.0 percent), adult women (4.0 percent), Whites (3.7 percent), Blacks (6.7 percent), and Hispanics (5.2 percent) declined in November. The jobless rates for teenagers (11.2 percent) and Asians (3.8 percent)showed little change over the month.

“We’re continuing to see a surge in job postings, record low unemployment rates and historically high levels of workers changing jobs and careers,” said Karen Fichuk, CEO, Randstad North America and Randstad N.V. executive board member. “Together these trends are creating new opportunities for workers, as smart employers cater to workers who have come to expect a better work-life balance, higher salaries, and more flexibility. At the same time, the rise of the Omicron variant will renew employee concerns about health and safety measures and threaten to pump the brakes on the current acceleration of the job market.”

Economists are divided over the potential impact of a winter coronavirus surge. According to the New York Times, some say it could cool off the economy, easing inflation, because it could inhibit in-person activities. Others say a new wave could raise prices further by complicating the logistics of supply chains. John C. Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, told The New York Times on Wednesday that the new variant could “mean a somewhat slower rebound overall” yet “increase those inflationary pressures, in those areas that are in high demand.”

Where Job Growth Occurred

• Professional and business services added 90,000 jobs in November. Job gains continued in administrative and waste services (+42,000), although employment in its temporary help services component changed little (+6,000). Job growth also continued in management and technical consulting services (+12,000) and in computer system design and related services (+10,000). Employment in professional and business services overall is 69,000 below its level in February 2020.

• Employment in transportation and warehousing increased by 50,000 in November and is 210,000 above its February 2020 level. In November, job gains occurred in couriers and messengers (+27,000) and in warehousing and storage (+9,000).

• Construction employment rose by 31,000 in November, following gains of a similar magnitude in the prior two months. In November, employment continued to trend up in specialty trade contractors (+13,000), construction of buildings (+10,000), and heavy and civil engineering construction (+8,000). Construction employment is 115,000 below its February 2020 level.

• Manufacturing added 31,000 jobs in November. Job gains occurred in miscellaneous durable goods manufacturing (+10,000) and fabricated metal products (+8,000), while motor vehicles and parts lost jobs (-10,000). Employment in machinery declined by 6,000, largely reflecting a strike. Manufacturing employment is down by 253,000 since February 2020.

• Employment in financial activities continued to trend up in November (+13,000) and is 30,000 above its February 2020 level. Job growth occurred in securities, commodity contracts, and investments in November (+9,000).

• Employment in retail trade declined by 20,000 in November, with job losses in general merchandise stores (-20,000); clothing and clothing accessories stores (-18,000); and sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores (-9,000). These losses were partially offset by job gains in food and beverage stores (+9,000) and in building material and garden supply stores (+7,000). Retail trade employment is 176,000 lower than in February 2020.

• Employment in leisure and hospitality changed little in November (+23,000), following large gains earlier in the year. Leisure and hospitality has added 2.4 million jobs thus far in 2021, but employment in the industry is down by 1.3 million, or 7.9 percent, since February 2020.

• Healthcare employment was about unchanged in November (+2,000). Within the industry, employment in ambulatory healthcare services continued to trend up (+17,000), while nursing and residential care facilities lost 11,000 jobs. Employment in healthcare is down by 450,000 since February 2020, with nursing and residential care facilities accounting for nearly all of the loss.

• In November, employment showed little change in other major industries, including mining, wholesale trade, information, other services, and public and private education.

Search Veteran Weighs In

Jeff Rives is chairman and CEO of Chapel Hill Solutions, a mutually committed, healthcare executive search firm. Chapel Hill has served the executive search marketplace for 25-plus years. The firm focuses on the healthcare and life sciences industry including all phases and business areas within the pharmaceutical, bio tech, clinical research and medical device and healthcare.

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

Jeff Rives

Jeff, many are optimistic about a return to normalcy by the end of the year. What are your thoughts about the recovery? 

We are in a new normal that will persist into subsequent years. We have found our clients face challenges in finding the right people for their needs from a hiring perspective. There is not as much supply in the marketplace at this time. From our seats, the recovery is progressing slowly.

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

Many of our new clients are coming from a reactive state regarding talent strategy. They seek to fix old problems without preparing for future obstacles. Their challenge is finding the right plan and partner to help them quickly repair what is wrong and pivot to a forward-facing talent strategy. We have brought our clients solutions to their current talent needs while advising them on creating modern workforce planning. We are a unique search in that we have sat on their side of the table, running successful businesses in different industries.

“Many of our new clients are coming from a reactive state regarding talent strategy. They seek to fix old problems without preparing for future obstacles.”

Has your firm adjusted in how it serves clients? 

We have improved our talent solutions for our clients in three ways. We have implemented new technology to allow more transparency in our search projects, allowing clients to survey the marketplace accurately. We have implemented a new project management strategy to collaborate more deeply with our clients in the search project. This change has improved our clients’ ability to forecast talent needs to their core operations. Lastly, we have aligned our success with theirs by tying our fees into reaching important milestones during each search project. By adapting to how our clients face the marketplace, we have been successful shepherds in a challenging talent recovery.

Related: Skills Gap Points to Why We Need to Invest in People

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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