Bill Venteicher headshot
Bill VenteicherApril 5, 2024
Topics: HR Experience

Navigating Job Market Trends: Key Takeaways From The April 2024 Report

As the United States job market evolves from one month to the next, we will continue to provide insights and summaries of the reports that are relevant to HR teams and leaders. Within each article in this series, we will provide the insights needed so your teams can adjust focus, time strategic hiring efforts, and better prepare for industry trends that will impact your success in talent acquisition and retention. 

Job openings, separations, and the US employment rate are constantly influenced by various economic and industry-specific factors. As HR professionals, we’re concerned about what trends are going to affect short-term plans and which will continue to influence long-term strategies. 

Today, we will summarize the newest reports about market trends and jobs in the US over the last 2 months — including the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Report released on April 2, and the most recent BLS Employment Situation report released on April 5 — that offer valuable data that can guide your HR initiatives in your industry.

The insights from the reports underscore the necessity for HR tactics to be adaptable and tailored to your specific industry, reflecting a robust economy. By keeping on top of trends within your sector and integrating AI and automation, you gain the agility, speed, and efficiency essential for crafting or refining a strong HR framework. 

This strategy aligns with the prevailing job market dynamics and positions your company as a market leader. Adopting this forward-thinking methodology not only aids in attracting and retaining top talent but also ensures your team can adapt as the job market shifts.

Understanding March Data 

First, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation Report provides data from two monthly studies. One is a household survey, which assesses employment and unemployment status based on demographic details; the second is an establishment survey that evaluates nonfarm employment, working hours, and wages across various industries. 


The report published for March 2024 reveals that total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 303,000, with notable gains in Healthcare, local and federal Government, Leisure and Hospitality, Construction, Social Assistance, and modest gains in Retail. The unemployment rate fell slightly to 3.8% as economists expected.

The US job market is now one of the strongest in our history: The economy has added jobs for 39 consecutive months, marking the fifth-longest period of job expansion on record, BLS data shows. The unemployment rate has been in a narrow range of 3.7 percent to 3.9 percent since August 2023 and has been below 4% for 26 months in a row, the longest streak since the late 1960s.

Forecasters had expected the official government report on Friday to show the labor market added 193,000 to 200,000 jobs in March. The much higher result is way above this prediction and shows the resilient labor market is still going strong despite the Federal Reserve's campaign of anti-inflation interest rate hikes. The report indicates a strong jobs market, when compared to the average during the 5 years leading up to the pandemic, which was only 191,000 per month.

Employment numbers are also revised each month for previous survey reports. With these revisions, employment in January and February combined to a total of 22,000 higher than the report previously showed. The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for January was revised up by 27,000, from +229,000 to +256,000, and the change for February was revised down by 5,000, from +275,000 to +270,000.

 Second, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Report measures employment, layoffs, job openings, and quits across the US. 

8.8 Million

The March report shows that the job openings level was relatively stable for February, at 8.8 million open jobs. The report also adjusted reports from January down from 8.9 million to 8.8 million, making the monthly change across the country up only about 8,000 jobs. 

In February there were notable changes in sectors like finance and insurance, which saw an increase, and Healthcare, Retail and Information sectors, which saw the largest declines. Again, the US job openings are down year-over-year from 9.8 million job openings in February of 2023, and has continued on this trend since its peak during the pandemic recovery at 12.2 million open jobs in March 2022.

The report shows layoffs increased to 1.7 million in February, the first month-to-month increase since October 2023. This Is something business leaders and economists will be watching closely through the first half of the year.

Industries hardest hit by layoffs from January to February were Retail, Leisure and Hospitality, and Construction, particularly in the South region of the United States. 

About 3.5 million workers quit or resigned from their jobs in February, up slightly from January, but still at or below pre-pandemic levels, and well below the numbers that prompted reports of “The Great Resignation” that peaked in the beginning of 2022. 

Quits — which often signal dissatisfaction with work across specific industries — were up in Retail, Real Estate, and Professional and Business Services. However, the highest number of people quitting across the country were still in Healthcare, Accomodation and Food Services, Professional and Business Services, Retail, and Manufacturing industries, effectively highlighting churn as a constant challenge for HR professionals. Employee experience investment and retention is still a priority for many leaders in these industries.

Overall, HR teams hired 5.8 million new employees in February 2024, with 8.8 million job openings waiting to be filled. New hires outpaced total separations (layoffs and quits) by about 274,000 people in February. 

Job openings are still well above the 6.9 Million people who reported they were unemployed in February — which decreased slightly in March — and the labor market looks to continue its strength. With the emphasis on learning new skills and retraining for shifts in emerging roles, business needs should continue to be an important focus area for employers and job seekers. 

Industry-Specific Insights

As of March 2024, 22.2 million people work in healthcare and social assistance, 22.9 million people work in Professional and Business services, and 23 million people work in State and Local Government across the country. 

21.8 million people work in Manufacturing and Construction, and the workforce in Retail, Accommodations and Food Services industries make up 30 million people, 19% of all working Americans.

Average hourly earnings across all professions are up $1.38 from one year ago with Utilities industry hourly pay leading the country at an average pay of $50.81 per hour. Information, Financial Services, Professional Services, and Healthcare round out the top 5 in this category. 

Leisure and Hospitality industry workers earn the lowest average wage at $21.90 per hour, followed by Retail, Transportation and Trades, and Manufacturing.

At 4.1%, wage growth is outpacing inflation by almost a full percentage point, increasing purchasing power and quality of life for American workers in all industries. This development should be something that talent acquisition teams keep an eye on as they look to improve hiring success.

Healthcare and Social Assistance: 

  • Over 780k people were hired in February in Healthcare and Social Assistance, continuing the well-known demand for staff in these sectors. 

  • The job openings report shows Healthcare as having the highest number of job openings in the country: 1.86 million. This is down slightly from the revised reported number for healthcare in January, which showed 1.9 million open jobs. 

  • Healthcare employment saw an increase from February 2024 to March 2024, adding 72,000 jobs which is above the average monthly gain of 58,000 over the prior 12 months. 

  • In March, job growth continued in ambulatory health care services (+27,500), hospitals (+27,100), and nursing and residential care facilities saw a larger leap than last month  (+17,700). HR strategies should focus on attracting and retaining skilled workers, emphasizing career development and competitive benefits.

  • 472,000 Healthcare and Social Assistance employees quit their jobs from January to the end of February, making up just over 13% of all quits in the US during that month.


  • About 680,000 employees were hired in the Retail industry in February. Overall, employment changed little in March (+18,000) and continues a slow increase each month. 

  • Over the month, 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).  

  • In Retail, over 161,000 layoffs were reported, but employee retention is still a challenge with over 456,000 Retail employees quitting their jobs across the US in February. 

Hospitality and Transportation: 

  • Despite the recent challenges these industries have faced, the job gains in February and March 2024, indicate a welcome resurgence. Employment in Accommodations and Food Services was slightly lower in March, increasing by 31,500. While turnover is still very volatile in the Accommodations and Restaurant industry, 671,000 employees quit their jobs in February, dropping to 19% of all quits in the US during that month. 

  • Leisure and Hospitality saw an increase in the number of job openings from January to February, increasing by 23,000. New job openings in accommodations and restaurants were down, but the arts, entertainment and recreation sector showed strong growth, illustrating strong seasonality as the weather warms. As of February there were 1,146,000 open jobs in this industry.

  • Employment in Transportation and warehousing employment only saw a very small increase in March. Truck transportation added 5,000 jobs, Couriers and messengers declined slightly from last month's gains, and warehousing and storage jobs decreased by almost 6,000, continuing losses last month.. Warehousing and storage employment in this industry is down by 150,000 since reaching a peak in July 2022.

  • There were 284,000 hires in this industry in February, and 161,000 people in transportation, warehousing, and utilities quit their jobs from January to February, making up 4.6% of all quits during that month. 


  • Construction was a bright spot for March with the report showing the industry growing by 39,000 jobs. In the report this industry includes speciality trade contractors, these new jobs and made up the majority of the gains in March. 

  • Over 500,000 jobs in construction have been added in the last year.

  • 152,000 employees in construction quit their jobs in February, and 214,000 people were laid off, but there were 403,000 new hires, showing consistent growth and stability.

 The Employment Situation report from April 5th indicated that there was minimal variation in job numbers within several key sectors throughout the month. These sectors include mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction; manufacturing; wholesale trade; transportation and warehousing; information; financial activities; and professional and business services.

Tailoring Your HR Strategy

By understanding and responding to the nuanced data in reports like the Employment Situation, HR professionals can better navigate the complexities of the job market. Whether it's focusing on recruitment in growing industries or enhancing retention in more stable sectors, a strategic approach informed by current data will position your organization for success. Embracing AI and automation will further enhance your ability to adapt and thrive in this ever-changing landscape. 

Reinvention in recruiting is happening globally for every business and every type of job. Recruiters want to respond to these kinds of market shifts and use data to help candidates transfer their potential into meaningful skills and find out that their company is a perfect match. 

If you're in an industry experiencing an increase in job openings, financial services, Recreation, hospitality, construction and local government, competition is heating up and you need to step up your game to attract top talent. Consider the following strategies:

  • Recruitment Focus: Prioritize dynamic and efficient talent acquisition methods. Leverage analytics-driven approaches to pinpoint and secure candidates with the necessary expertise for your sector. Streamline recruitment by automating routine tasks and fostering engaging interactions across multiple channels.

  • Customized Candidate Interactions: Enhance the recruitment experience by introducing advanced tools like interactive chatbots. These bots can engage with applicants in real time, offering tailored job suggestions based on their abilities, geographic location, or previous online activities.

  • Company Image as an Employer: Elevate your organization's appeal as a top employment destination. Emphasize the potential for professional development, enumerate the benefits, and showcase your company culture to lure prospective employees.

  • Building Connections with Talent Networks: Develop and maintain connections with prospective candidates by participating in career exhibitions, sector-specific conferences, and digital forums. Build and nurture your own Alumni community as well. Active involvement in these communities helps cultivate a robust reserve of talent for future vacancies.

For Industries with Decreasing Job Openings

For sectors like Retail, Manufacturing and Transportation and Trades where job openings have decreased, the approach should be different. There are many candidates constantly looking for new roles in these industries and there may be a large number of applications for any open role, but finding the right candidates quickly and hiring people with the right skills who are a good match for your company are key areas HR teams should be investing in. High-volume hiring strategies can help balance candidate quality and quantity. 

Retention begins with great hiring and finishes with impactful employee experiences. Here are a couple of key areas to consider when designing engaging strategies to maximize retention in your industry:

  • Automation: Find ways to automate and personalize interactions with job seekers to overcome hiring hurdles and redundant repetitive processes that slow you down. Make every minute count by connecting candidates to the right positions, confirming availability, identifying qualifications, and automatically scheduling interviews or invites to hiring events.

  • Strategic Hiring: Be more selective in your hiring process, ensuring that new hires align closely with your long-term business goals when you have limited job openings to fill but lots of applicants.

  • Professional Growth and Employee Referrals: Emphasize the continuous development and skill enhancement of your existing workforce to address skill shortages internally, minimizing external recruitment needs. Foster a sense of progression and ownership among employees, motivating them to recommend acquaintances and peers for open positions within your organization.

  • Communication Strategy: Highlight your company's stability and the prospects for advancement it offers to attract individuals seeking enduring career opportunities.

Overall Critical HR Focus Areas

Recruiting and Retention

  • Data-Driven Recruitment: Utilize labor market data to identify trends and target recruitment efforts effectively. For industries experiencing growth, such as Healthcare, focus on sourcing candidates with the necessary skills and qualifications.

  • Retention Strategies: In sectors where job openings are increasing, like Government and Healthcare, implement retention strategies that emphasize career progression, competitive compensation, and work-life balance to keep valuable employees engaged.

Employer Branding and Messaging

  • Positive Messaging: Highlight the strengths of your company and your industry, especially in sectors experiencing growth. Showcase your stability, growth potential, and commitment to employee development. Be proud of what makes your organization unique. Make your Career page stand out and take an opportunity to consider a refresh or modernization of how your candidates interact with your company and how you make a great first impression. 

  • Industry Challenges: For industries with slower growth or higher unemployment rates, address potential concerns proactively in your employer branding. Emphasize resilience, strategic vision, and long-term opportunities.

Leveraging AI and Automation in HR

The integration of AI and automation in HR processes can significantly enhance your strategic capabilities, regardless of industry trends:

  • Efficient Recruitment: Use AI-powered tools for faster and more effective candidate matching, screening, and scheduling, especially in rapidly growing sectors.

  • Employee Development: Implement AI-driven platforms for personalized employee skills matching, training and development, which can be incredibly helpful and crucial for retention in competitive job markets.

  • Data Analytics: Use hiring data for your own company to predict industry trends, identify skills gaps, and tailor your HR strategies to align with future market demands. Identify where you have gaps, and improve your processes.

You need to work with a vendor that can handle all of your requirements and is flexible enough to allow you to make changes and reinvent your recruiting processes as market and job dynamics shift.

Interested in learning more about how you can apply these strategies to your hiring, development, and retention strategies in the wake of the evolving economic landscape?

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