U.S. employers added 98,000 jobs in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Although last month’s gains were well below analysts’ expectations, March nonetheless marked the 78th consecutive month of job growth. Updated figures for January and February show that 38,000 fewer jobs were added than originally reported by the BLS. Still, the U.S. economy gained 533,000 new jobs in the first quarter of 2017, or about 178,000 positions per month.
The jobs report also indicates that the national unemployment rate edged down from 4.7 percent in February to 4.5 percent last month, the lowest level in nearly a decade. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for college-degreed workers who are 25 or older — the most sought-after workers — increased slightly to 2.5 percent from 2.4 percent in February.
Following are a few industry-specific highlights from the March jobs report:
- Employment in professional and business services rose by 56,000 jobs. That’s in line with average monthly gains for this industry over the past 12 months.
- Healthcare added 14,000 jobs. About 20,000 jobs per month have been created in healthcare since the start of 2017.
- Employment in financial activities grew in March, with employers adding 9,000 positions. Over the past 12 months, the industry has added 178,000 jobs.
The BLS also recently released its latest Job Openings and Employee Turnover Summary (JOLTS). According to the report, the number of job openings in the United States was 5.6 million on the last business day of January — up just a bit from the 5.5 million open positions at the end of December 2016. The quits rate (the percentage of people who voluntarily quit their jobs) also ticked up slightly from 2.1 percent in December to 2.2 percent January.
The takeaway for managers
Together, the March jobs report and latest JOLTS release highlight three trends:
- Unemployment remains low, especially for skilled professionals.
- Employers have millions of open roles and are struggling to staff them as they compete against each other for the best talent.
- Many workers are willing to leave their jobs for better opportunities.