The Jobs Report: What Recruiters Should Know About November’s Data
The November jobs report from the BLS was released last Friday and the mostly positive results tell us a lot about the U.S. job market. Total employment in non-farm jobs went up by 211,000 last month, which was higher than many analysts had expected. The unemployment rate held steady at 5%. While we know this figure can be misleading, it is encouraging that unemployment did not start creeping back up.
Another good sign came from revisions to the monthly figures for September and October. Combined, the U.S. added 35,000 more jobs than initially reported in those months. Which means monthly average job gains have been 218,000 this fall. And the labor force participation rate, a reliable gauge of the number of working adults, inched up slightly to 62.5% compared to last month’s report.
Janet Yellen, Chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, told Congress last week that payroll increases below the 200,000 mark are still good enough to hold the jobless rate down, and bring non-working adults back into the labor force. In this post we’ll take a closer look at the November jobs report to see where employment gains are actually taking place, and who might not be benefiting from the improving job market yet.
A Deeper Look at Job Gains and Losses
Out of the 211,000 jobs added to payrolls in November, the biggest gains were in the construction industry. Overall there were 46,000 more people employed in construction, with more than half (26,000) hired in residential specialty trade contractor roles. These jobs include carpenters, construction laborers, electricians, plumbers, and pipefitters. Job figures in the industry are actually lower than what is considered normal, so rising payrolls among construction companies are a welcome sign in many regions.
Further job gains in November came from food and drinking services (32,000), retail (31,000), professional and technical services (28,000), and health care (24,000). Industries that experienced significant job losses included mining (-11,000) and information (-12,000), which includes publishing companies, the film and recording industries, broadcasting, telecommunications, and data processing and hosting. Manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, financial activities, and government saw little change.
The Retail Job Market
The increase in retail jobs is actually lower than October’s figures, when many employers focused on recruiting staff for the holiday shopping surge. But that didn’t prevent retailers from hiring more workers in November. Last month the biggest job gains came in general merchandise stores (12,000) and motor vehicle and parts dealers (9,000). Clothing and clothing accessories stores actually lost jobs (-14,200). Overall, retail trade jobs have increased by 284,000 so far in 2015.
General merchandise stores are typically department stores and other large stores with a wide variety of goods. The employees they hire include cashiers, customer, sales workers and managers of retail sales workers, and store clerks or order fillers. Aggressive and extended holiday sales may have contributed to the need for more workers among these large retailers.
And it’s possible that low gas prices may be benefiting both general merchandise stores and dealers that are increasing payrolls. As it becomes cheaper for more Americans to buy cars and related accessories, and drive to big box stores, those retailers may need more employees to keep up with demand.
Part Time Workers
Another interesting figure from the November jobs report is the number of people working part time for economic reasons. These are employees who would like to work full time, but cannot due to business conditions, or unavailability of full time jobs. After declining in September and October, this figure increased by 319,000 to reach nearly 6.1 million in November.
The number of people working part time voluntarily, for non-economic reasons, is significantly higher at almost 19.8 million. But these workers are not seeking full time work, due to childcare requirements, family or personal obligations, school or training, retirement, or Social Security limits on earnings. So the number of involuntary part time workers is a more useful figure for recruiters to keep track of.
For 2015 overall, total involuntary part time workers has actually decreased by 765,000. Since unemployment is trending down and the labor force participation rate is slowly increasing, it is likely that more full time jobs have become available to these part time workers. Recruiters looking to extend their talent pipelines, or to foster employee development within their own organization, should consider any part time staff as new full time openings arise.
A Few Things to Keep In Mind
Most job market watchers think overall U.S. labor conditions are continuing to improve. But there are obvious weak spots depending on the industry or demographics you look at. Recruiters working with big mining and oil and gas companies have watched available jobs decrease by over 120,000 since this time last year. The unemployment rate for African Americans remains stubbornly high at 9.4%.
Depending on the industry you work for, and the types of workers you need, your talent acquisition strategy can actually try to exploit some of these differences in the jobs report. For example, if your company is weak when it comes to diversity in the workplace, consider targeting minority groups with higher unemployment levels.
Or consider retail. We already know some retail workers have lost their jobs at clothing stores. That doesn’t mean those same workers wouldn’t do well in a different retail setting. Retail recruiters that have open positions could try targeting these former employees, enticing them to switch to auto parts dealers or big department stores. As always, there is a lot more to the latest jobs report than a few headline grabbing figures.
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