February Jobs Report: U.S. Sees Record-Breaking Streak in Job Creation

February Jobs Report: U.S. Sees Record-Breaking Streak in Job Creation

Emily Smykal

It’s time to review the state of the job market again, and the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics come with a lot of positives. Nonfarm payrolls rose by 242,000 in February, and the figures for December and January were revised upwards by a combined 30,000 jobs.

The unemployment rate held steady at 4.9%, while both the employment-population ratio and the labor force participation rate climbed slightly. The February 2016 jobs report put the U.S. labor force in the largest period of sustained growth since 1939, with over 13 million jobs added since 2010.

But as usual, job gains were not evenly distributed across the economy. Healthcare, retail and food services saw growth last month, while mining and some aspects of manufacturing experienced declines. For recruiters, it’s important to be aware of job growth and losses within their industry, so in this post we’ll take a closer look at February’s figures.

Where Are the Job Gains?

The biggest jump in February payrolls came from healthcare and social assistance. Healthcare as a category includes ambulatory health services (e.g. doctors’ offices), hospitals, and nursing facilities. These employers added 38,000 jobs last month, and 481,000 since February 2015. Social assistance, which includes family services, emergency services, vocational rehabilitation, and child care, added 19,000.

Retail also stood out as a job creator last month, with 15,000 new jobs in food and beverage stores, 12,500 at general merchandise stores (excluding department stores), and 11,000 among clothing and clothing accessories stores. Somewhat related to retail, food services and drinking places also saw job gains, with 40,000 new workers added to payrolls. Over the last 12 months we’ve seen 330,000 new retail jobs in total and 359,000 new food services jobs.

Other notable gains came from private educational services (28,000 jobs), residential specialty trade contractors (14,000), and professional and technical services (17,600).

Digging deeper into the job growth, we also looked at the BLS report on the employment of production and nonsupervisory employees. This includes production employees in mining, logging, and manufacturing, construction employees, and nonsupervisory employees in the service  industries. Accounting for just over 80% of all nonfarm workers, these figures shed more light on on job prospects for the average candidate.

Education and health services added 72,000 nonsupervisory employees in February, and private service providers hired over 199,000 workers at similar levels. Growth in production-level workers also came from trade, transportation, and utilities (57,000) and leisure and hospitality (35,000).

Where Are the Job Losses?

February’s biggest payroll decreases came from mining, as low oil prices continue to hamper the prospect of many employers in that field. Mining of all materials lost 19,000 jobs last month, but support activities for mining was the hardest hit with 15,900 fewer workers. Since February 2015, mining overall has lost 140,000 from its payrolls.

Unsurprisingly, mining (and logging) have also lost the most production-level jobs, with 16,000 less in February and 114,000 fewer compared to one year ago. Other losses among nonsupervisory workers came from manufacturing, which employed 10,000 less people in nondurable goods.

As we mentioned above, retail overall had a good result in February. But department stores continue to lag, losing 4,000 jobs last month and 27,000 in the last 12 months. And rail transportation was another notable laggard, with 2,900 job losses in February but a total of 26,000 fewer workers since the same period last year.

What Should Recruiters Keep in Mind?

Poring over monthly job reports may seem tedious to recruiters, but keeping an eye on larger trends can help inform some talent acquisition decisions. Take recruitment in the energy industry, for example. Many oil and gas workers are finding themselves unemployed or underemployed. But that doesn’t mean their skills are worthless. Some large energy companies are shifting towards renewable energy, and they should view these underutilized workers as opportunities to train seasoned employees for their new business ventures.

The changes in service industry payrolls are also important to watch, as many employers in this space go through high-volume hiring. While job gains among retailers and food service providers are good news for low-skilled workers, recruiters should be wary of hiring practices that emphasize quantity over quality. Quickly churning through applicants just to keep up with your competitors could lead to higher turnover rates, a costly strategy for those recruiters who don’t focus on quality of hire.

Recruiters who can stay abreast of hiring within their industry, even as their own organization’s strategy may move in a different direction, will be better positioned to adapt to any changes and target candidates in search of a better job.

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