BLS Employment Situation Report: March 2024

Analysts were anticipating a slight cooling in overall labour market conditions with non-farm payroll hiring expected near the 2000,000 mark in this month’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) payroll report. Once again, today’s BLS data, indicating a jobs gain of 303,000, surprised the experts. March results are higher than the average gain of 231,000 over the prior 12 months, partially driven by an uptick in government hiring.

Unemployment at 3.8 percent remained in the same range narrow range of between 3.7 to 3.9 percent since August 2023.

“As experts analyze today’s BLS employment data and try to model future trends in the overall U.S. jobs market, I’d like to drill down to a key segment of the employment landscape. Our global Network of over 200 executive recruitment offices focus on top talent primarily within the college educated segment of the U.S. labor force. That segment is experiencing what amounts to full employment with jobless rates of 2.2% or lower. Our teams provide clients with access to a highly sought after sub-segment of this cohort with even lower rates of unemployment, experienced executive, professional, technical and managerial talent,” noted Rick Hermanns, president and chief executive officer of HireQuest Inc., the parent company of MRINetwork.

“A recent article in the Wall Street Journal draws attention to a critical talent recruitment and onboarding skill that many clients tend to undervalue or even ignore. The reporters address the particular recruiting challenges in the high-flying world of Nvidia, one of the most desired employers in the tech world. They note ‘a sense of urgency’ drives Nvidia managers in both the hiring and onboarding processes. Not a reckless desire to get things done quickly, but a carefully thought-out process integrated into the company’s culture where the reporters noted, ‘Nvidia would usually wait no longer than two weeks from first interviewing a candidate to making a decision.’ They report the brief but intense hiring process is followed by a quick immersion of the new employee into a world where new hires, ‘are quickly thrown into big projects with real responsibilities.’ In today’s business climate, highly talented candidates expect to be treated with respect indicated by a focused interviewing process with tightly targeted questions, followed by immediate feedback and a transparent decision-making process. When hired the best performers then thrive on immediate involvement in meaningful projects.”

CNBC reporter Jeff Cox provided an overview of today’s results in an era of higher interest rates, “The job market’s resilience has confounded many economists who spent the past two years searching for a jobs-led recession that never happened.” Cox noted Luke Tilley’s (chief economist at Wilmington Trust) comments, “Firms are seeing strong demand. They’ve dramatically increased their productivity, and so they’re hiring for different kinds of jobs, that has enabled them to deal with the high-rate environment.”

Paul Nolte, market strategist from Murphy & Sylvest Wealth Management, provided interest rate insight on the BLS data, “Everything in today’s numbers looks good. Participation rate was up, hours worked were up. The reason the unemployment rate came down was because of more people coming into the labour force. With this number and the prior numbers we’ve seen, it still indicate that the labour market is strong. We’ve been in the camp that the Fed doesn’t cut rates at all because the economy is strong so this still fits within our framework of good employment data that should keep the Fed on the sidelines.”

Healthcare added 72,000 jobs in March, above the average monthly gain of 60,000 over the prior 12 months. Also increasing was government hiring with federal and local government positions increasing by 71,000 jobs.

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.

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 speciality trade contractors (+16,000).

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.

In March, employment in retail trade was up slightly (+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.

“Our talent advisory teams bring expert advice to clients every day on how to structure a winning recruitment and onboarding environment aligned with a client’s culture. Each MRINetwork office is led by a franchise owner who brings deep industry experience and talent knowledge to source the top performers our clients need to grow and thrive in any business environment,” noted Hermanns.

To view the entire Employment Situation report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, click here.