January 2018 Jobs Report: U.S. Hits 88 Straight Months of Job Gains

By Robert Half February 2, 2018 at 4:15pm

The U.S. economy has gotten off to a solid start in 2018. According to the first jobs report of the year, employers expanded payrolls by 200,000 positions in January. That’s about 20,000 more jobs than economists had expected. 

The U.S. has now seen job growth for a record 88 consecutive months. 

Over the last three months, job gains have averaged 192,000 per month. That figure accounts for revised numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which show that 24,000 fewer positions were created in November and December 2017 than previously reported. Overall job growth in 2017 was more than 2.1 million.

Another bright spot in the latest jobs report: Average hourly earnings increased 2.9 percent in January from a year earlier, the strongest gain since 2009. 

Education and health services sector leads job growth

The education and health services sector saw the most job gains in January, with employers expanding payrolls by 38,000 positions. Healthcare alone grew by 21,000 jobs.

Here are the sectors that saw the most new jobs added in January 2018:

  • Education and health services — 38,000 jobs added
  • Construction — 36,000 jobs added
  • Leisure and hospitality — 35,000 jobs added
  • Professional and business services — 23,000 jobs added
  • Retail trade — 15,400 jobs added

Unemployment remains at a 17-year low

The national unemployment rate held at 4.1 percent for the fourth straight month, the lowest rate since December 2000.

The unemployment rate for college-degreed workers who are 25 or older was unchanged at 2.1 percent for the third consecutive month. These are the professionals in highest demand by employers.

Unemployment rates for some occupations are even lower. For example, the unemployment rate for accountants and auditors was 1.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017, according to the BLS. It was the same for software developers. The unemployment rate for financial managers was 1.0 percent and just 0.8 percent for financial analysts.

What employers need to know

Skilled candidates are in short supply. But many professionals, motivated by New Year’s resolutions, are determined to land new jobs this year. In fact, our research shows that 29 percent of workers plan to launch a job search in the next 12 months.

If you’re in hiring mode, be sure your job postings are sharp. They’re the primary vehicle for driving excitement and interest around your open roles. Use job ads to not only describe the ins and outs of the position but also why your firm is a great place to work. 

Make no mistake about it: In-demand professionals remain selective when weighing employment opportunities. They’re carefully searching for companies that offer an appealing corporate culture, competitive pay, and leading benefits and perks.

What job seekers need to know

The new year is a great time to explore the job market. Many businesses have fresh hiring budgets in place and new business initiatives planned that they need skilled professionals to help drive forward. 

Even though companies are eager to staff up and get new projects underway, they are still taking time to ensure they make smart, strategic hires. So be prepared to explain to a target employer why you’d be an asset to the firm — including how you could potentially add value, whether you’re willing to learn new skills, and why you’d thrive in the corporate culture. 

Let us help you find the right fit

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

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