Job growth surged in January as employers added 304,000 positions. That number is well above what most economists had expected. It also marks the 100th straight month of payroll expansion.

The following industries led job growth in January, according to the BLS:

  • Leisure and hospitality — 74,000 jobs added
  • Education and health services — 55,000 jobs added
  • Construction — 52,000 jobs added
  • Professional and business services — 30,000 jobs added
  • Transportation and warehousing — 26,600 jobs added

Revised numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that overall job growth in 2018 was more than 2.6 million.

Unemployment at 4.0 percent

The national unemployment rate rose to 4.0 percent in January, up from 3.9 percent in December. The recent federal government shutdown contributed to the increase, according to the BLS. Nevertheless, the unemployment rate remains near historic lows.

The unemployment rate for college-degreed workers who are 25 or older — the professionals who are in the highest demand by employers — also rose last month. It was 2.4 percent in January, up from 2.1 percent in December.

What employers need to know

If your business is falling short of its recruitment goals, the tight employment market may only be partly to blame. Another possibility is that your hiring requirements are too stringent. 

You should apply high standards when hiring talent for your firm, of course. But you must be careful not to set the bar so high that you overlook promising applicants who could do the job but may not meet all your must-have requirements. You also risk deterring skilled candidates from even applying.

When creating your job posting and evaluating applicants, carefully select the skills and attributes that a professional absolutely needs to perform the job well. Remain flexible on everything else. This can help shorten how long it takes to hire

It’s also worth enlisting the help of a recruiter, who can dig deep into a candidate’s qualifications and assess other important hiring factors, like organizational culture fit. 

Recruiters may also know of professionals who would be ideal for your team but whom you might have overlooked. These candidates may need only a little training and extra ramp-up time to succeed.

What job seekers need to know

No doubt you’re aware that the employment market is in your favor. But what if you’ve applied to several positions and heard nothing back? 

Here are a few things that could be undermining your job search success:

  • You don’t include keywords in your job application materials. Many employers use tools to scan resumes and cover letters, looking for the same words that they’ve used in their job postings. If you’re not working in relevant keywords, your application may be getting dismissed right from the start.
  • You’re not highlighting your soft skills. Interpersonal skills are essential for success in today’s collaborative work environment. So, while an employer will want to know that you can handle the technical duties of a job, they’ll be just as interested in your communication skills, customer service mindset and ability to empathize with others. 
  • You’re not explaining how you’ve created value in previous roles. Your resume should not be a laundry list of all the responsibilities you’ve managed in the past. Yes, you should describe the key duties of the roles you’ve held. But, when possible, tie those responsibilities to clear outcomes. 

Also, it doesn’t hurt to have help. Building a strong relationship with a recruiter can help ensure you’re marketing your skills and experience most effectively. A recruiter can also identify job opportunities you might not have considered. And, most important, a recruiter can help an employer see your potential — even if you don’t meet all the criteria on paper.

Read the infographic text.

Monthly Jobs Summary: January 2019



304,000 JOBS ADDED*




Unemployment RateUnemployment Rate for College Grads**
FEB’18 4.1%2.2%
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% 2.5%

*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

**College-degreed workers 25 and older

See what these results mean for job seekers and employers at


93% of CFOs said it’s challenging to find skilled candidates for professional-level positions.

Source: Robert Half survey of more than 1,100 CFOs in the U.S.

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