Unemployment Rate Falls to 4.8 Percent

As Americans continue to get vaccinated, employment numbers have been improving – but at a slower than expected pace. Here’s the latest monthly jobs report just released from the Labor Department. Travis Hann of Pender & Howe sits down with Hunt Scanlon to discuss current trends in the market.

October 8, 2021 – Employment rose by 194,000 in September as the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 4.8 percent, according to the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report. So far this year, monthly job growth has averaged 586,000. Notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, in professional and business services, in retail trade, and in transportation and warehousing. Employment in public education declined over the month.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (4.7 percent), adult women (4.2 percent), Whites (4.2 percent), and Blacks (7.9 percent) declined in September. The jobless rates for teenagers (11.5 percent), Asians (4.2 percent), and Hispanics (6.3 percent) showed little change over the month.

“While last month’s report showed a slowdown in hiring across all sectors due to concerns over the Delta variant, today’s numbers suggest that the labor market is still struggling to make progress towards a full recovery,” said Mike Smith, global CEO of Randstad Sourceright. “Many Americans are looking to return to the workforce following unemployment throughout the pandemic with new expectations of their employers.”

“Companies must shift their focus to how they can engage these jobseekers to alleviate ongoing talent scarcity,” he says. “Today’s jobseekers are looking for higher wages and benefits such as improved flexibility and the ability to work from home, as well as for longer-term career growth and purpose. Smart companies will meet those demands.”

“Despite the suspension of unemployment benefits and widespread pay increases, recruiting remains a challenge as we approach peak hiring season in many industries,” said Karen Fichuk, CEO, Randstad North America and Randstad N.V. executive board member. “Low labor force participation is a complex challenge for American employers, and one without a silver bullet solution. There are pandemic-related causes, as well as long-term trends that were in place prior to COVID. To attract workers now (and retain them), companies must prioritize safety and mental health, while also strategizing how to fill skill gaps by offering training and development opportunities to their current employees. Internal mobility programs can be an incredibly powerful retention tool for companies.”

Where Job Growth Occurred

  • Employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 74,000 in September, with continued job growth in arts, entertainment, and recreation (+43,000). Employment in food services and drinking places changed little for the second consecutive month, compared with an average monthly gain of 197,000 from January through July. Employment in leisure and hospitality is down by 1.6 million, or 9.4 percent, since February 2020.
  • Professional and business services added 60,000 jobs in September. Employment continued to increase in architectural and engineering services (+15,000), management and technical consulting services (+15,000), and computer systems design and related services (+9,000). Employment in professional and business services is 385,000 below its level in February 2020.
  • In September, employment in retail trade rose by 56,000, following two months of little change. Over the month, employment gains occurred in clothing and clothing accessories stores (+27,000), general merchandise stores (+16,000), and building material and garden supply stores (+16,000). These gains were partially offset by a loss in food and beverage stores (-12,000). Retail trade employment is 202,000 lower than its level in February 2020.
  • Employment in transportation and warehousing increased by 47,000 in September, in line with gains in the prior two months. In September, job gains continued in warehousing and storage (+16,000), couriers and messengers (+13,000), and air transportation (+10,000). Employment in transportation and warehousing is 72,000 above its pre-pandemic level in February 2020.
  • Employment in the information industry increased by 32,000 in September. Gains occurred in motion picture and sound recording industries (+14,000); in publishing industries, except Internet (+11,000); and in data processing, hosting, and related services (+6,000). Employment in information is down by 108,000 since February 2020.
  • In September, social assistance added 30,000 jobs, led by a gain in child day care services (+18,000). Employment in social assistance is 204,000 lower than in February 2020.
  • Employment in manufacturing increased by 26,000 in September, with gains in fabricated metal products (+8,000), machinery (+6,000), and printing and related support activities (+4,000). These gains were partially offset by a decline of 6,000 in motor vehicles and parts. Manufacturing employment is down by 353,000 since February 2020.
  • Construction employment rose by 22,000 in September but has shown little net change thus far this year. Employment in construction is 201,000 below its February 2020 level.
  • In September, employment in wholesale trade increased by 17,000, almost entirely in the durable goods component (+16,000). Employment in wholesale trade is down by 159,000 since February 2020.
  • Mining employment continued to trend up in September (+5,000), reflecting growth in support activities for mining (+4,000). Mining employment has risen by 59,000 since a trough in August 2020 but is 93,000 below a peak in January 2019.
  • In September, employment decreased by 144,000 in local government education and by 17,000 in state government education. Employment changed little in private education (-19,000). Most back-to school hiring typically occurs in September. Hiring this September was lower than usual, resulting in a decline after seasonal adjustment. Recent employment changes are challenging to interpret, as pandemic-related staffing fluctuations in public and private education have distorted the normal seasonal hiring and layoff patterns. Since February 2020, employment is down by 310,000 in local government education, by 194,000 in state government education, and by 172,000 in private education.
  • Employment in healthcare changed little in September (-18,000). Job losses occurred in nursing and residential care facilities (-38,000) and hospitals (-8,000), while ambulatory healthcare services added jobs (+28,000). Employment in healthcare is down by 524,000 since February 2020, with nursing and residential care facilities accounting for about four-fifths of the loss.
  • In September, employment showed little change in financial activities and in other services.

Veteran Search Consultant Weighs In

Travis Hann is managing partner of Toronto-based Pender & Howe Executive Search. He co-leads the search firm’s North American operations. Previously, he built and led the automotive and mobility practice for Lock Search Group. Mr. Hann’s primary focus is partnering with both founders and venture investors on new business initiatives. He leads the business strategy in identifying and attracting senior executives to joining new, revolutionary businesses.

Mr. Hann 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.

Travis Hann
Travis Hann

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

Many people now have a new definition of normal; people value and appreciate things that they never once did. With that said, in-office presence since the summer months has already showed an increase in activity, many organizations began a trial rollout to going back into the office on a hybrid model. With the fourth wave causing fear, I have spoken with numerous clients who quickly decided to push this date back to January 2022.

What expectations do you have for the search industry for the rest of the year?

In my opinion this is one of the hottest and most volatile markets the search industry has had in the last decade and there is no sign of it slowing down by the end of year.

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

It’s a candidates market right now, which was a very fast pivot from 2020 when it clearly was not. Candidates have their choice of opportunities to explore and it’s crucial for organizations to have a tight and desirable interview process to assist in attracting the very best talent. In addition to this, given the challenge of not only recruiting top talent but retaining it, many companies are counter offering their employees who resign to avoid the dreaded recruitment process they know that they will face if a vacancy is created within their leadership team.

“This is one of the hottest and most volatile markets the search industry has had in the last decade and there is no sign of it slowing down by the end of year.”

What sectors are strongest right now?

Our core sectors are all equally doing well this year but we have seen more movement within sales & revenue leadership positions vs. any other function.

Has your firm adjusted in how it serves clients?

Our main focus has and will always be serving our clients with quality and efficiency, top of mind. Given it is such a robust recruitment market right now, we have embedded ourselves in our client interview processes, at their request, more than ever before. We want to give candidates a desirable and consistent interview experience from beginning to end, as all recruitment professional knows, interviewing is a two way street and the candidate is interviewing the client just as much as the client is interviewing the candidate. We are there to ensure the process never misses a beat so we can secure our clients the very best talent, efficiently, leaving no stone unturned.

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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