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February Labor Numbers Inch Upward Once Again, Says Brian Miller, of Patrice & Associates

Office workers sitting around tables working together
More job openings, and not enough people to fill them leave companies and candidates more selective.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported yesterday that unemployment increased slightly to 3.9% in February. The total of non-farm payroll rose by 275,000. That’s an improvement from the softer labor market we witnessed in December and January. As the new year picks up steam, the February labor numbers inch upward once again. Health care, government, restaurants and bars, social assistance, and transportation and warehousing all saw increases. The BLS revised their January and December numbers downward by 167,000 jobs which makes February’s increase more dramatic.


CCG: How did we fare with job openings in specific industries?

Miller: Health care added 67,000 jobs in February, and government employment rose by 52,000. Employment in food services and drinking places increased by 42,000 in February, after changing little over the prior 3 months. Construction trended upwards by 23,000 jobs, while retail showed little change, with a modest increase of 19,000 jobs. Retail has shown little net change over the year.

CCG:    What about the labor market trend numbers?

Miller:  The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) shows the most recent February labor numbers are consistent with the trends we see across our network. Overall, the labor market remains strong and normalizing. The giant upward swings we witnessed after the pandemic are gone. The good news is that the new normal is a solid labor market with 1.45 jobs for every unemployed person vs. 1.2 jobs the year before the pandemic. The JOLTS data show a cooling job market but not a significant slowdown in net job creation and economic activity, according to Wells Fargo economist Sara House. Job openings, a measure of labor demand, slipped 26,000 to 8.863 million on the last day of January, the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS, said. The number of workers resigning from their jobs fell 54,000 to 3.385 million in January.

CCG:    Patrice & Associates has a significant presence in Canada, so what’s going on up north?

Miller:  The Canadian version of the BLS reported a similar cooling trend. Employment increased in Canada by 41,000 in February, with a slight uptick in unemployment to 5.8%. Telling a similar story to the US, accommodation and food services grew by 26,000 following a decline of 30,000 in January. Canada is also experiencing a greying population, just like in the U.S., with an ever-growing number of workers reaching age 65. This North American trend continues to fuel a tighter labor market.

CCG:  Any comment on where interest rates are going, given the state of employment and the workforce?

Miller:  Based on the most recent data, economists expect that the U.S. Central Bank and the Canadian Central Bank will not cut interest rates until the summer. This is much anticipated and may be contributing to the uptick in optimism, a.k.a. job growth, we’re seeing. Companies are gearing up.

CCG: That sounds like good news for Patrice & Associates, correct?

Miller: It is. Our clients still have plenty of job openings, a trend for us, so this is nothing new. Companies that are great at what they do always have business, and that is true for us. So yes, thanks to the tight labor market, we continue to see increasing demand across multiple industry sectors. Where we are seeing a change, and this is because of job market stabilization, is that clients have the luxury of being more specific about the candidates they’re seeing. Matching them precisely to the job specifications rather than taking what they can get. Candidates also have the same luxury of being increasingly choosy about the jobs they will take. So, it is our job to help both sides make that perfect match, which no one does better than Patrice & Associates recruiters.



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