October 2017 Jobs Report: Unemployment Falls to 17-Year Low

By Robert Half November 3, 2017 at 3:18pm

Employers added 261,000 in October, according to the latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also noted that September’s employment picture was not as gloomy as initially reported. The bureau revised September’s loss of 33,000 jobs to a gain of 18,000 jobs. Since the start of 2017, U.S. employers have added nearly 1.7 million positions, or about 168,500 jobs per month, on average.

October 2017 unemployment rate

The unemployment rate edged down in October to 4.1 percent — the lowest since December 2000. 

The unemployment rate for college-degreed workers dropped to 2.0 percent. Professionals in this group are the most highly sought-after workers by employers.

Hottest industries

The biggest job gains were in the leisure and hospitality sector, which added 106,000 jobs in October. This growth offset a decline in September that was largely due to the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

The professional and business services sector and healthcare sector also saw growth in October. Employers in professional and business services created 50,000 jobs last month. That figure is in line with the sector’s average monthly gains over the prior 12 months. 

Healthcare, meanwhile, increased by 22,000 jobs. Employers in this sector have added an average of 24,000 jobs per month thus far in 2017.

What employers need to know

For businesses in hiring mode, the October jobs report underscores the steep challenge employers face in the current market. The unemployment rate is at 17-year low — which means few skilled workers are actively seeking new opportunities. Further evidence of the lack of available candidates is the most Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLTS) survey, which found that 6.1 million positions were open on the last business day of August.

One strategy employers can use to increase their chances of attracting top talent is focusing on the five “C’s”: 

  1. Compensation
  2. Corporate culture
  3. Commute
  4. Career path
  5. Cost of living

Compensation is always important, of course, and your firm should be paying competitive salaries to hire — and keep — top talent. However, Robert Half recruiters across the country also see that job candidates are highly focused on factors that can impact their quality of life. So, during the hiring process, be sure to provide details about professional development opportunities, work-life balance programs and other perks that make your company a great place to work. 

What job seekers need to know

In this very competitive hiring environment, highly skilled workers may find they receive multiple job offers. That sounds like an enviable situation — and it is — but it also can be a bit overwhelming. You may have difficulty homing in on the right opportunity when faced with a range of offers for similar positions with similar compensation and benefits packages.

One way to winnow down your options is to focus on what you need most to be satisfied at work. If professional development opportunities are an absolute must, for example, identify the employer that is willing to invest in this area. If that company isn’t offering a compensation package as competitive as those offered by other firms you’re considering, go back to the hiring manager to see if it’s possible to negotiate salary. If you’re a top pick for the firm, they may be willing to meet your terms. 

An infographic showing the October 2017 jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and survey data from Robert Half

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