February 2018 Jobs Report: Hiring Surges as Employers Add 313,000 Jobs

By Robert Half March 9, 2018 at 3:07pm

The hot labor market in the U.S. shows no signs of slowing. Employers added 313,000 jobs in February, according to the latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the largest monthly gain since July 2016. 

February marked the 89 consecutive months of U.S. job growth. Over the past three months, job gains have averaged more than 242,000 per month. That figure reflects revised numbers for December and January: According to the BLS, employment gains during those months were 54,000 more than previously reported.

Job growth by sector

The construction sector saw the biggest increase in job gains last month, with employers adding 61,000 positions. The BLS noted that this sector has added 185,000 jobs over the past four months.

Another sector that experienced solid job growth last month was professional and business services, which added 50,000 positions. Over the past year, that sector has created about 495,000 new jobs.

Other highlights from the February jobs report include:

  • The manufacturing sector added 31,000 jobs. 
  • Employers in financial activities expanded payrolls by 28,000 jobs. 
  • Job growth in healthcare trended up by 19,000 jobs. 
  • Temporary help services created 27,000 new jobs.

Unemployment rate steady at 17-year low

The national unemployment rate was 4.1 percent for the fifth consecutive month. That’s the lowest level since December 2000. The unemployment rate for college-degreed workers who are 25 or older edged up slightly to 2.3 percent after holding at 2.1 percent for three months straight. These are the workers most highly sought-after by employers.

The unemployment rates for many occupations are trending well below the national average, according to the BLS. Some examples, based on fourth-quarter figures from the agency, include:

  • Financial analysts: 0.8 percent
  • Accountants and auditors: 1.8 percent
  • Software developers: 1.8 percent
  • Administrative assistants: 2.8 percent

What employers need to know

Demand for specialized workers continues to run high, and these candidates are hard to find. One important tactic for hiring top talent in this highly competitive market is offering competitive compensation. Make sure your business is paying at least market rates — and, better yet, above market rates — to attract in-demand professionals.

Robert Half’s Salary Guides can help you set starting salary ranges to land top talent. Get your Salary Guides now!

Now is also a good time to re-evaluate compensation for your existing staff members to confirm these valued employees are earning a salary that is competitive for your market and industry. This exercise can help reduce the risk of turnover.

Also, move swiftly to make job offers to promising candidates. Taking too long to decide on a potential hire could result in missing out entirely on the opportunity to recruit a great employee. Many highly skilled candidates have the luxury of weighing multiple job offers, particularly in top hiring markets. When competing for those professionals, be prepared to negotiate salary and benefits.

What job seekers need to know

It’s still early in the new year, which means many businesses are continuing to staff up for their 2018 initiatives and have hiring budgets to spend. Recruiting activity is brisk for many occupations right now, and professionals with specialized skills often receive multiple job offers.

If you have in-demand skills, be sure your resume makes this clear to employers. The skills you emphasize should align with those mentioned in the job post you’re responding to. And you want to clearly explain the outcomes of contributions you’ve made to previous employers. Even in a hiring market where the demand for skilled talent exceeds supply, a thoughtful and well-crafted resume can have a big effect on the interest you receive from hiring managers. 

Read more on our blog to learn what you need to know about writing a resume.

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An infographic summarizing the February 2018 jobs report and survey data from Robert Half

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