While the U.S. economy saw its 101st month of consecutive job growth in February, payroll expansion was well below analysts’ expectations. Employers added 20,000 jobs last month, according to the February jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That is the lowest number since September 2017.

Job gains in January were 7,000 more than previously reported, according to the BLS. Since the start of 2019, employers have added 331,000 jobs to the U.S. economy.

Employers in professional and business services led job growth in February, adding 42,000 jobs, including 5,800 jobs in temporary help services.

Unemployment declines to 3.8 percent

The national unemployment rate dropped to 3.8 percent in February, from 4.0 percent in January.

The unemployment rate for college-degreed workers who are 25 or older — the professionals most in demand by employers — fell to 2.2 percent.

What employers need to know

At the end of 2018, 7.3 million jobs were waiting to be filled, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLTS) report from the BLS. So, the demand for skilled talent persists, and employers need to be prepared to negotiate salary with potential hires. In this competitive market, many job candidates feel empowered to ask for more money. In fact, more than half (55 percent) of professionals responding to a recent Robert Half survey said they had tried to negotiate a higher salary with the last employment offer. That’s a 16-point jump from a similar Robert Half survey released in early 2018.

If you’ve already researched local trends to calculate the salary for the position, what else can you do to ensure compensation discussions are constructive for you and the candidate? Here are two quick tips:

  1. Be transparent from the get-go. Be proactive about discussing salary with candidates early in the hiring process. The “money discussion” is unavoidable, so why put it off? Transparency gives candidates the opportunity to walk away if they feel the pay won’t meet their needs. And it allows you to focus on the applicants who do find the salary acceptable.
  2. Highlight perks and benefits. Salary is only one part of a compensation package — and not necessarily a dealmaker or -breaker for all candidates. So, underscore other high-value offerings, such as paid vacation time, professional development opportunities or telecommuting programs. And don’t forget benefits like health insurance and retirement savings plans, which many workers covet.

If you come across a candidate you believe would be an ideal fit for the job and your organization, be willing to flex on salary to the extent possible.

What job seekers need to know

How prepared are you to talk salary with an employer once you receive an employment offer? Research from Robert Half shows that 70 percent of hiring managers don’t expect candidates to accept the initial salary they propose. So, you can be sure that they know they need to be ready to negotiate.

To lay the groundwork for a productive discussion, research current and relevant salary data first. Consult resources like Robert Half’s annual Salary Guides to determine the going rate for the position you’re targeting and your experience level. Robert Half’s Salary Calculator can help you drill down on specific figures for your geographic area.

Once you’re in a salary negotiation, apply these two strategies for success:

  1. Be specific with numbers. If you’ve done your homework, you should be able to tell an employer what starting pay you believe you deserve. You can provide an exact number, or a range that is somewhat narrow — for example, $60,000-$68,000. Also, know what your baseline salary is going in — that is, the bottom-line figure you would accept before walking away. 
  2. Explain why you’re a good investment. If you’re asking an employer to flex on compensation, help them see why they should consider your request. What “return” can they expect by agreeing to a higher starting salary than they may have budgeted for the position? Share examples of how you believe your skills and experience would enhance the business.

It’s important to be forthright about the level of compensation that you seek. The employer needs to understand what your expectations are — and you need to negotiate a salary that will meet your needs. Just be careful not to focus so much on salary that you overlook the value of the full compensation package that’s on the table. You may find that the benefits and perks the employer is offering may mean more to you than a bigger paycheck.

Read the infographic text.

Monthly Jobs Summary: February 2019



20,000 JOBS ADDED*




Unemployment RateUnemployment Rate for College Grads**
MAR '18 4.0%2.2%
APR '18 3.9%2.1%
MAY '18 3.8%2.0%
JUN’18 4.0%2.4%
AUG’18 3.8%2.0%
SEP’18 3.7%2.0%
OCT’18 3.8%2.0%
NOV’18 3.7%2.2%
DEC’183.9% 2.1%
JAN’19 4.0% 2.4%
FEB’19 3.8%2.2%

*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

**College-degreed workers 25 and older

See what these results mean for job seekers and employers at roberthalf.com/blog.


55% of professionals tried to negotiate a higher salary with their last employment offer.

Source: Robert Half survey of more than 2,700 workers in the U.S.

© 2019 Robert Half. An Equal Opportunity Employer M/F/Disability/Veterans.