The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the economy added a robust 678,000 jobs in February as the unemployment rate edged down to 3.8 percent. Job growth was widespread, with notable gains in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, healthcare, and construction. Among college-educated civilian workers, the unemployment rate declined slightly to 2.2% — near record lows.
Teleworking declined in February from January’s high of 15.4 percent to 13.0 percent as the labor force responded to easing COVID-19 restrictions.
“February’s BLS report continues to chart an ongoing jobs recovery since March 2020. More importantly it measures growth in skilled jobs as unemployment among college educated workers points to virtually full employment. The Chicago Fed’s February Letter has an interesting analysis that aligns with many of our executive recruitment team’s observations about the new world of work emerging as the COVID-19 threat fades and the economy continues to grow. Essentially the report concludes that millions of skilled workers quickly took the first job available in the months following the March 2020 COVID-19 plunge. Many of those new positions did not align with the job seekers skills, purpose nor did they find a compelling cultural match. These people as well as the thousands of executive, technical, professional, and managerial workers who were not impacted by layoffs see this recovery period as an opportunity to make a positive career change,” said Bert Miller, President and CEO of MRI.
“Some talent industry analysts have asked, ‘why is so much of the workforce unhappy?’ as if unhappiness was driving much of this job churn. Based on what our Network of over 1500 professional recruiters observes and what I see in the market, it is not unhappiness. It is a workforce that is not finding career fulfillment.
We spend a great deal of time at work. In many ways, our job defines what we are, how secure we feel, and to a certain extent, if we’re able to actualize our dreams. When you’re stuck in a job with no advancement potential, little stability, and earnings that don’t reflect what you’re worth, it’s not a good place to be. When those priorities are met, people are more fulfilled.
It really comes down to building an attractive workplace culture through values — focusing on the things that are important to the top performers. We counsel our clients to focus on a strong hiring and individual brand, culture and core values.”
Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturing noted a key factor in providing workers with a sense of fulfillment is a push to provide paths to ‘upskilling.’ “There’s hardly ever been more opportunities for future manufacturing workers. Innovators. Designers. Technicians. Creators,” he commented. “To help workers advance in their careers, companies are investing in upskilling programs — so that people can keep improving their skills as technology advances throughout their careers.”
Wall Street Journal reporter Josh Mitchell provided context to the need for employers to create a more attractive workplace, “While virus infections have fallen sharply since their peak in mid-January, employers say they continue to struggle to find workers as they respond to a high level of spending from households. Though some workers have come off the sidelines in recent months, the labor force remains depleted, with many older workers having retired, immigration down sharply and some younger and middle-aged workers remaining at home.”
Employment in leisure and hospitality continued to increase, with a gain of 179,000 in February. Job growth occurred in food services and drinking places (+124,000) and in accommodation (+28,000). While continuing a robust trend in job creation, employment in this sector remains 1.5 million lower than in February 2020.
Professional and business services added 95,000 jobs in February, with job gains in virtually every sector including management of companies and enterprises (+12,000) and management and technical consulting services (+10,000). Employment in professional and business services is 596,000 higher than in February 2020.
Employment in healthcare rose by 64,000 and in construction by 60,000 in February.
Transportation and warehousing employment increased by 48,000 in February and is 584,000 higher than in February 2020.
In other industries, February employment rose by 37,000 in retail trade, 36,000 in manufacturing, and 35,000 in financial activities.
“People gravitate towards values-focused organizations, firms that offer flexibility, with leaders and team members who they enjoy working with every day. Talented workers want to work with firms that have compelling clearly stated purpose and values, enlightened leadership and yes, competitive compensation. These factors drive not only loyalty, but they also create an environment that drives true career fulfillment,” noted Miller.