March 2018 Jobs Report: Unemployment at 17-Year Low for Sixth Straight Month

By Robert Half April 6, 2018 at 2:32pm

The U.S. economy saw payrolls expand by 103,000 jobs in March, according to the latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These modest gains were below economists’ expectations. Still, March represented the 90th consecutive month of job growth. 

Since the beginning of the year, U.S. employers have added 605,000 positions, or about 202,000 new positions per month, on average. The total includes revised numbers for January and February. The employment gain for those months was 50,000 less than previously reported, according to the BLS. However, February’s revised figure of 326,000 jobs added was the largest monthly gain since October 2015.

Unemployment at 4.1 percent

For the sixth consecutive month, the unemployment rate held at 4.1 percent, the lowest level since December 2000. The unemployment rate for college-degreed workers who are 25 or older — the professionals employers seek to hire most — was 2.2 percent, down from 2.3 percent in February.

Professional and business services led job growth

Employers in the professional and business services sector added 33,000 jobs in March.  Over the pay year, businesses in this sector have created 502,000 new positions.

Manufacturing and healthcare employers also contributed to job creation in March. Each industry generated 22,000 new jobs. The BLS reports that manufacturing has added 232,000 positions over the past year. And healthcare’s gains in March were in line with average monthly job growth for that industry over the past 12 months, according to the BLS.

What employers need to know

The low unemployment rate is a positive trend for the U.S. economy, but it also makes it that much harder for employers to secure the skilled professionals they need to support new business initiatives and drive growth. The BLS also reports that unemployment rates for many roles that require specialized skills are well below the national rate. 

In this market, flexibility and speed remain two essential keys to hiring in-demand talent. Flexibility is important when it comes to hiring criteria: Focus on what matters most and look for high-potential candidates who can be trained quickly to overcome any skills gaps. And speed matters when making a job offer, as top candidates won’t wait long to receive one. Be prepared to show your best hand when presenting an offer, as in-demand professionals are often weighing multiple opportunities. 

What job seekers need to know

It’s easy to feel confident in the current hiring market if you have in-demand skills and experience, as chances are you will have an array of job opportunities to pursue. But beware of overconfidence. Yes, unemployment is low. But many employers remain very selective when recruiting new talent. They want to be sure they are making a smart hiring decision.

If you’re on the job hunt, it’s important to do all you can to demonstrate to employers why you’re the best fit not only for the role you’re targeting but also for the company’s corporate culture. The latter is becoming an increasingly important consideration in the hiring process. For many employers today, a candidate’s ability to match, and even enhance, the corporate culture can be equally important to that person’s ability to do the job.

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

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