BLS Employment Situation Report: February 2024

As the U.S. election season gets underway, the monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics payroll report (BLS) begins to play an even larger role as a barometer of the overall health of the economy. February’s BLS summary notes that last month’s hotter-than-expected job creation total was a bit less hot than originally reported as job gains were revised down 124,000 to 229,000. But February growth of 275,000, beat analysts’ expectations and was well above the prior 12-month average of 230,000. All signal a vibrant employment market.

While total nonfarm payroll employment rose by a robust 275,000 in February, the unemployment rate increased by 0.2 percentage point to 3.9 percent versus the prior month — still the 25th straight month in which it has remained below 4 percent.

“Each month the Bureau of Labor Statistics surveys approximately 120,000 business and government agencies, representing over 600,000 worksites as part of its monthly assessment of non-farm employment. A separate household survey adds detail to capture a clear snapshot of the employment situation among the U.S. workforce of over 167 million people.

“Like thousands of analysts throughout the economy, our global team of over 200 executive recruitment offices monitors these monthly releases to get a clearer picture of the forces driving the talent environment particularly within the executive, technical, professional and managerial sectors. Each month we are happy to share this data and our observations to our global client base with the Employment Situation Report,” noted Rick Hermanns, president and chief executive officer of HireQuest Inc., parent company of MRINetwork.

“With today’s BLS report, I’d like to provide a little color on how our 200 plus businesses operate within this huge talent marketplace. Every one of our offices is franchisee-owned. Led by men and women who are true entrepreneurs. They have a personal financial interest in their team’s success which can only occur when they deliver consistent client service excellence. As a franchisor, we provide rigorous training, industry-leading proprietary tools, and talent search and recruitment processes that have been honed for almost 60 years. These corporate efforts, combined with a business ownership model and our office owners’ deep industry experience and knowledge, drive our ability to source the top performers our clients need to grow and thrive in any business environment.”

In its “Beige Book,” the Federal Reserve added emphasis to a key factor of the current jobs market — the scarcity of top talent, “Businesses generally found it easier to fill open positions and to find qualified applicants, although difficulties persisted attracting workers for highly skilled positions, including healthcare professionals, engineers, and skilled trades specialists such as welders and mechanics.”

Capturing an overall sentiment by the financial community Michael Gapen, chief economist at Bank of America Securities in New York noted, “The pandemic may be in the rear-view mirror, but reopening forces are still influencing the U.S. labor market and the ability of the economy to withstand higher Fed policy rates. This informs our view that the economy can continue to grow, with low rates of unemployment and falling inflation.”

Wall Street Journal reporter David Uberti succinctly summarized the BLS data, “The report offers a fresh snapshot of the U.S. economy, which has muscled through the highest interest rates in 20-plus years with consistent job growth and some of the lowest unemployment rates in a half-century.”

Healthcare added 67,000 jobs in February, above the average monthly gain of 58,000 over the prior 12 months.

Employment in food services and drinking places increased by 42,000 in February, after changing little over the prior 3 months.

Employment in transportation and warehousing rose by 20,000 in February. Employment in this industry is down by 144,000 since reaching a peak in July 2022.

In February, employment continued to trend up in construction (+23,000), in line with the average monthly gain of 18,000 over the prior 12 months. Over the month, heavy and civil engineering construction added 13,000 jobs.

Retail trade employment changed little in February (+19,000) and has shown little net change over the year.

Employment showed little change over the month in other major industries, including mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction; manufacturing; wholesale trade; information; financial activities; professional and business services; and other services.

”Our MRINetwork franchise owners and their consulting teams look forward to guiding clients with talent solutions tailored to meet the challenges of building resilient leadership teams, driving cultural transformation, managing technological innovation while fueling business growth,” noted Hermanns.

To view the entire Employment Situation report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, click here.