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Bill VenteicherMay 3, 2024
Topics: Talent Experience

Navigating Job Market Trends: Key Takeaways From the May 2024 Reports

The United States job market continues to evolve with each passing month, and each report can have interesting unexpected changes. This blog series is dedicated to delivering key insights and comprehensive summaries of the reports to equip you with the necessary knowledge to recalibrate your focus, optimize your timing for strategic hires, and proactively navigate industry trends that are crucial for your success in talent acquisition and retention. 

From month to month, job openings, separations, and the US employment rate are shaped by changing economic and industry-specific factors. As HR professionals, this data is an indicator of what trends are going to impact short-term plans and which will have lasting effects on long-term strategies. 

In this article, we will summarize valuable data that can guide your HR initiatives in your industry. 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 May 1, and the most recent BLS Employment Situation report released on May 3.

See summaries from March and April on the Phenom blog.

Staying informed about the latest trends within your industry can improve your strategies and enhance the agility and accuracy of hiring strategies.

Understanding March Data 

As we have discussed, 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. 

175,000

The most recent report covers the job market at the end of April 2024 and reveals that total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 175,000. The unemployment rate rose slightly to 3.9% and has been in a narrow range of 3.7 percent to 3.9 percent since August 2023. It has been below 4% for 27 months in a row, matching the longest streak from 1967 to 1970.

For the first time in quite a while, economists overestimated job gains. For April, analyst and economist expectations were that the nation would have added 235,000 jobs. However, the released report shows job growth was 60k lower than expected at 175,000, indicating a firm slowdown in hiring. This is the 5th lowest monthly increase in the last year and the lowest increase in jobs created since October 2023.

In recent months, the jobs reports have been much higher than expected. For example, forecasters had expected the official government report in March to show the labor market added 193,000 to 200,000 jobs, and the report showed 303,000. March numbers have been revised even higher up to 315k in this month’s report.

Amid this month’s downturn, the US job market continues to be one of the strongest in our history: The economy has added jobs for 40 consecutive months, marking the fifth-longest period of job expansion on record, BLS data shows

Note: Employment numbers are revised each month for previous survey reports. With these revisions, employment in February and March combined to a total of 22,000 lower than the report previously showed. The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for February was revised down by 34,000, from +270,000 to +236,000, and the report for March was revised up by 12,000, from +303,000 to +315,000.

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

8.5 Million

The May report shows that the job openings level has continued to pull back from previous highs. 

Job openings fell to a three-year low, hiring decreased as well, and fewer people quit their jobs. Also, average hourly earnings increased slightly for all occupations except for retail and manufacturing — the only industries to drop this month. The report shows that at the end of March, there were 8.48 million open jobs.

The report shows layoffs decreased to 1.5 million in March, similar to the layoff totals last seen in the spring and summer of 2023.

Even though almost all industries' layoff numbers declined in March, industries hardest hit by layoffs from February to March were Professional and Business Services, Retail, Leisure and Hospitality, and Construction.

About 3.3 million workers quit or resigned from their jobs in March, showing a substantial decrease from previous months and the lowest number of people quitting their jobs since January 2021.

Quits were down in almost all industries, especially Retail, Accommodations and Food Services, and Healthcare. However, the highest number of people quitting across the country were still those same industries, showing that the challenge to hire and retain employees in these high-churn industries has not diminished.

Overall, HR teams pulled back on hiring in March as well, hiring 300k less new employees than the previous month, hiring 5.5 million new employees nationwide. This is the lowest number of monthly hires since 2017, except for April 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic. 

With the decrease to the lowest number of job openings in 3 years waiting to be filled, a shift in strategy and a decrease from years of higher rates may be taking hold. This will be a key area to watch over the summer.

Industry-Specific Insights

As of April 2024, 5.5 million people work in hospitals, 9.3 million people work in Waste Management and Remediation services, and 23 million people work in State and Local Government across the country. 

12 million people work in Manufacturing, and the workforce in Retail, Accommodations and Food Services industries make up 30 million people — 19% of all working Americans. Over a million people work in each of the top retail areas: Gas Stations, Building Materials and Garden Supplies, Warehouse Clubs and Supercenters, and Hobby, Sporting Goods, and Clothing Retailers. Over 12 million people work in restaurants and bars.

Average hourly earnings across all professions are up $1.31 from one year ago with small increases across almost all industries. Manufacturing and Retail dropped slightly. 

Healthcare and Social Assistance 

  • About 765k people were hired in March in Healthcare and Social Assistance, continuing the well-known demand for staff in these sectors, but down this month after 6 months of increases each month 

  • The job openings report shows Healthcare as having the highest number of job openings in the country: 1.78 million. This is down slightly for the third month in a row. 

  • Healthcare employment saw an increase from March 2024 to April 2024, adding 56,000 jobs

  • In April, job growth continued to increase in ambulatory health care services (+33,000), hospitals (+14,000), and nursing and residential care facilities (+9,000) 

  • 483,000 Healthcare and Social Assistance employees quit their jobs from February to the end of March, making up just over 14% of all quits in the US during that month

Retail 

  • About 644,000 employees were hired in the Retail industry in March. Overall, employment continues a slow increase each month. 

  • According to the BLS “Over the month, employment in retail trade continued to trend up in April (+20,000). Over the prior 12 months, the industry had added an average of 7,000 jobs per month. In April, employment increased in general merchandise retailers (+10,000), building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers (+7,000), and health and personal care retailers (+5,000). Electronics and appliance retailers lost 3,000 jobs.”   

  • In Retail, over 151,000 layoffs were reported, but employee retention is still a challenge with over 428,000 Retail employees quitting their jobs across the US in March. This is down 53k from the previous month and considerably lower than in March 2023. 

  • At the end of March, there were over 540k job openings across the country

Hospitality and Transportation

  • Employment in Accommodations and Food Services was slightly higher in April, increasing by about 8,000 jobs. While turnover is still very volatile in the Accommodations and Restaurant industry, 642,000 employees quit their jobs in March, and job openings rose to over a million open jobs for the first time this year.

  • Leisure and Hospitality saw a slight increase in the number of job openings from February to March, increasing by 10,000

  • Employment in Transportation and Warehousing increased in April by 22,000 jobs, a welcome increase after seeing very little change over the previous 12 months. Couriers and messengers increased by 8,000 jobs, and warehousing and storage jobs increased by 8,000. 

  • There were 242,000 hires in this industry in March, down 83,000 since the same month last year, and 142,000 people in Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities quit their jobs from February to March

Construction

  • Construction changed little in April, adding only 9,000 jobs after showing considerable growth of 40k new jobs in March. In the report, this industry includes Speciality Trade Contractors, and these new jobs made up the majority of the gains in April, followed by residential building construction. 

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

  • 157,000 employees in construction quit their jobs in March, 145,000 people were laid off, and there were 340,000 new hires, showing consistent growth and stability

 The Employment Situation report from May 3rd indicated that there was minimal variation in job numbers within several key sectors throughout the month. These sectors include Leisure and Hospitality, Mining, Quarrying, Oil and Gas Extraction, Manufacturing, Wholesale Trade, Transportation and Warehousing, Information, Financial Activities, and Professional and Business Services.

Tailoring Your HR Strategy

Adjusting your HR strategy to the current job market realities is crucial, especially given the recent data showing a decrease in job openings, hires, and quits alongside slower employment growth. This context underscores the importance of a nuanced, data-informed approach to HR practices, allowing your organization to effectively navigate the complexities of today's job market.

Embracing AI and automation becomes even more important in such a fluctuating environment, enhancing your ability to adapt quickly and efficiently. This integration aids in refining recruitment processes and in developing strategic HR frameworks that respond dynamically to market conditions. 

In Industries dealing with high-volume hiring needs, automation, and enhanced candidate experience are the key to staying competitive and meeting your hiring goals. 

For Industries with Rising Job Openings

For industries currently experiencing an uptick in job openings, such as Healthcare, Financial Services, Retail, Hospitality, Construction, and Transportation, the competition for attracting the best talent is intensifying. To navigate this competitive landscape effectively, consider adopting the following strategic approaches:

Recruitment Focus: Employ dynamic and efficient talent acquisition methods by utilizing analytics to precisely target and secure candidates who bring the right expertise to your door. Streamlining your recruitment processes by automating routine tasks can enhance efficiency while fostering engaging interactions across every type of device and platform to improve the candidate experience.

Customized Candidate Interactions: Improve your recruitment experience by integrating advanced tools such as interactive chatbots. These tools can interact with applicants in real time — even outside of regular business hours — providing job suggestions tailored to their skills, physical location, and past online activities on your career site, creating a personalized candidate journey.

Company Image as an Employer: Boost your organization's appeal by positioning your company as THE best place to work. Highlighting opportunities for professional development, detailing available benefits, and showcasing your company culture are great ways to attract prospective employees. A compelling employer brand is crucial in making your organization stand out from the crowd.

Building Connections with Talent Networks: Strengthen and expand your connections with potential candidates through active participation in career fairs, industry-specific conferences, and online forums. Cultivating an alumni community can also be beneficial. These efforts are essential for building a sustainable talent pipeline that can fulfill future staffing needs effectively.

Related: Employer Branding vs. Recruitment Marketing: What’s the Difference?

By focusing on these strategies, your organization can not only attract but also retain top-tier talent which is essential for thriving in sectors where job openings are on the rise. These approaches will ensure that your HR practices are not just reactive but proactive, positioning your company as a leader in its field.

For Industries with Decreasing Job Openings

In sectors like Retail, Manufacturing, and Transportation where job openings have declined, it’s vital to adapt your recruitment strategies. Focus on high-quality candidate selection and efficient recruitment processes to manage the high volume of applications. 

Automation can streamline these processes, ensuring that only the most suitable candidates are considered, which is crucial in a competitive job market. Innovative high-volume hiring strategies can help balance candidate quality and quantity. 

Recruitment and Retention Strategies

  • Dynamic Talent Acquisition: Use analytics to enhance recruitment efficiency. Automated tools can help manage the volume of applications, ensuring that recruitment efforts are both effective and efficient.

  • Enhanced Candidate Engagement: Utilize advanced tools such as AI-driven chatbots for real-time interaction, offering personalized job recommendations and improving the overall candidate experience.

  • Strategic Employer Branding: Elevate your company’s image by highlighting opportunities for professional growth and showcasing a compelling company culture. This is especially important in industries where job openings are scarce, as it helps attract and retain the best talent.

Retention Focus

  • Automated Personalization: Automate routine HR tasks to free up time for more strategic initiatives that enhance employee satisfaction and retention.

  • Selective Hiring: When job openings are limited, prioritize candidates who align closely with your company's long-term goals, enhancing both organizational stability and workforce effectiveness.

  • Employee Development: Invest in continuous training and development to keep your team competitive and satisfied, reducing the need for external recruitment.

Adapting to Current Market Trends

Given the slowing growth in some sectors, it's crucial to remain agile. Tailoring your HR strategies to reflect these changes ensures that your organization not only survives but thrives. Leveraging data to anticipate and react to trends, and adjusting your recruitment and retention strategies accordingly, will position your organization as a resilient leader in your industry.

By adopting these strategies, your HR team can effectively respond to the current slowdown in job growth and prepare for future market fluctuations, ensuring sustained organizational success.

Overall Critical HR focus areas

Communication and Employer Branding

In an evolving job market, clear and positive communication becomes even more essential. Highlighting the stability and growth opportunities within your organization can make your company a more attractive option for job seekers. This is particularly important in sectors where the growth has slowed, as it reassures potential candidates about the long-term viability and progression opportunities within your company.

  • Targeted Messaging: Adapt your messaging to reflect the realities of the job market and the specific circumstances of your industry. For instance, in sectors experiencing a slowdown, emphasize the company's resilience and strategic planning.

  • Visibility in the Right Channels: Ensure your employer brand is visible where your ideal candidates are most likely to search and apply. Whether through industry-specific forums, professional networks, or targeted online platforms, maintaining a strong presence can help attract top talent.

  • Engage with Talent Networks: Building relationships with potential candidates through campaigns, hiring events, career fairs, online webinars, and industry conferences can help create a talent pipeline for future openings. This proactive approach is especially beneficial in times of slower hiring, as it allows you to quickly mobilize when new positions do open.

Leveraging Technology for Strategic HR Management

With the increasing demands for agility and precision, integrating advanced technologies into your HR processes is no longer optional but a necessity.

  • AI in Recruitment and Retention: Utilize AI-driven tools to enhance candidate matching processes and personalize the employee experience. For example, AI can help analyze the effectiveness of different hiring channels and predict employee turnover, allowing for more informed HR decisions.

  • Automation of Routine Tasks: Implement automation in the screening and initial interviewing stages to manage high volumes of applications more efficiently. This not only speeds up the recruitment process but also allows your HR team to focus on engaging with candidates more meaningfully during the later stages.

  • Data Analytics for Proactive HR Planning: Harness the power of data analytics to predict future hiring needs and identify skill gaps within your organization. This forward-thinking approach helps you stay one step ahead, ensuring that your workforce is well-prepared to meet upcoming challenges.

Strategic Alignment with Business Goals

Ensuring that your HR strategies are aligned with the broader business objectives is critical. This alignment helps in making more strategic hiring decisions, enhancing employee engagement, and ultimately driving the company’s success.

  • Align HR Metrics with Business Performance: Develop key performance indicators (KPIs) for HR that directly contribute to the business’s bottom line. This might include metrics like time-to-hire, employee productivity rates, and employee retention rates.

  • Strategic Workforce Planning: Conduct regular reviews of your workforce planning strategies to ensure they are in sync with the current and future needs of the business. This should include succession planning and the strategic development of internal talent.

By focusing on these areas, your HR strategies will not only be responsive to the current market conditions but also proactive in shaping the future of your workforce. This holistic approach will ensure that your organization remains competitive, resilient, and appealing to both current employees and prospective talent.

If you have too many manual and time-consuming processes that are slowing you down and not letting you keep up with the market as shifts happen from one month to the next, Phenom can help. Scan the code above or click here to schedule time with one of our high-volume hiring and automation engine experts.

Learn where you can build and implement automation in your talent attraction processes, and pinpoint how you can reduce time to hire, and automate sourcing, screening, and interview scheduling.  

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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