BLS Employment Situation Report: November 2023

Once again, all eyes were on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) monthly Employment Situation survey for signals on where the overall economy is headed. And once again this morning’s survey indicated the economy may emerge from a period of high inflation into a soft landing. The report shows the economy continues to generate new jobs albeit at a gradually slower rate than previous months when factoring in November growth in government jobs and a return of striking auto and entertainment industry workers.

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 199,000 in November versus job growth of 150,000 in the previous month. The unemployment rate edged-down to 3.7 percent.

“Today’s BLS data indicates the rate of job growth continues to moderate, a sign that the U.S. economy might be cooling into the autumn months following a torrid summer. Even within the executive, professional, technical and managerial space that our Network of over 200 executive recruitment offices operates in, we see some signs of a moderation in job demand within select industries. Overall, however, despite headwinds of high interest rates, persistent inflation and turmoil in eastern Europe and the Middle East demand for top talent in our sector remains solid with unemployment remaining at historic lows, around two percent,” noted Nancy Halverson, vice president of MRINetwork.

“In my comments over the past several months, I’ve noted that a significant portion of our talent consulting efforts with clients have focused not only on finding top talent but on taking steps to retain high performers within their organizations. Talent retention has moved front and center in discussion and in actions initiated by not only our clients but by firms throughout the globe who are facing acute talent challenges. An often-overlooked tool that serves both as a talent attraction and retention device is an effective employer branding strategy. Our best clients align their growth strategies with their human resource needs. They set measurable goals and articulate a compelling employee value proposition across internal and external communication channels. In an environment where by some estimates over 40 percent of workers are actively searching for new jobs, talent professionals like Leslie Egiziano understand that, ‘Retention starts before a prospect even becomes your employee.’ She notes, ‘When companies focus on making public their strides to be the best employer they can be and how their employees feel about the company, it paves the path for positive feelings about the company, even in advance of that first paycheck’.”

Wall Street Journal reporter, Amara Omeokwe, pointed to indications of a ‘soft landing’ of cooling inflation without a recession, quoting Stephen Juneau, U.S. economist at Bank of America, “Recent trends are pointing in the right direction where you are seeing things progress toward the soft landing but also things are pointing toward a labor market that’s getting into better and better balance over time.” Omeokwe suggests that means the number of available workers is growing while employers’ hiring needs are easing.

“What we wanted was a strong but moderating labor market, and that’s what we saw in the November report,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist with Navy Federal Credit Union, noting “healthy job growth, lower unemployment, and decent wage increases. All this points to the labor market reaching a natural equilibrium around 150,000 jobs next year, which is plenty to continue the expansion, and not enough to trigger a Fed rate hike.”

In November, healthcare added 77,000 jobs, above the average monthly gain of 54,000 over the prior 12 months.

Employment in manufacturing rose by 28,000 in November, reflecting an increase of 30,000 in motor vehicles and parts as workers returned from a strike. Employment in manufacturing has shown little net change over the year.

In November, employment in leisure and hospitality continued to trend up (+40,000), almost entirely in food services and drinking places. Leisure and hospitality had added an average of 51,000 jobs per month over the prior 12 months.

Retail trade employment declined by 38,000 in November and has shown little net change over the year. Employment decreased in department stores (-19,000) and in furniture, home furnishings, electronics, and appliance retailers (-6,000) over the month.

During the month, employment in information changed little (+10,000). Motion picture and sound recording industries added 17,000 jobs, mostly reflecting the resolution of labor disputes in the industry. Overall, employment in the information industry has declined by 104,000 since reaching a peak in November 2022.

Employment in transportation and warehousing changed little in November (-5,000). A job loss in warehousing and storage (-8,000) was partially offset by a gain in air transportation (+4,000). Employment in transportation and warehousing has declined by 61,000 since a peak in October 2022.

Employment showed little change over the month in other major industries, including mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction; construction; wholesale trade; financial activities; professional and business services; and other services.

“Establishing a strong employer brand is not an overnight one-and-done process. An entire management team needs to be truly committed to building and consistently delivering a meaningful message about the culture, the vision, and the opportunity of a career at your firm. An investment in a comprehensive employer branding strategy backed by consistent delivery across the entire organization will pay dividends in improved retention and more efficient talent acquisition,” noted Halverson.

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