If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then the excitement around this month’s job numbers likely depends on which industry you operate in. While overall job growth looks good, layoffs and unemployment are also trending upward in certain industries.
According to the latest U.S. Bureau Labor Statistics’ (BLS) monthly jobs report, employment expanded by 311,000 in February, beating out estimates that hovered around 205,000. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate ticked up to 3.6% and layoffs increased to 1.7 million.
Monster’s Economist Giacomo Santangelo weighs in on the mixed bag that was this month’s BLS jobs report. “The February job growth numbers seem impressive, particularly in the leisure and hospitality and retail trade sectors,” he says. However, “these positive job growth numbers must be tempered by the note that the increase in layoffs and uptick in unemployment may suggest that some industries are still adjusting either by right-sizing or preparing for the imminent recession.”
Here’s our breakdown of the latest job numbers, along with key takeaways to help employers plan for the months ahead.
Wage Growth May Be Leveling Off
Over the past year, wages have been increasing at record rates in an effort to keep up with the rising cost of goods. At this point, it’s something most have come to expect in the BLS monthly jobs reports. In February, however, average hourly earnings, while still impressive, rose by 0.2%, below economists’ predictions of 0.4%.
Santangelo says, “The fact that average hourly wages fell short of economist expectations in February could suggest that the tight labor market and other factors (productivity gains, technological change, and global supply-chain issues) that have been contributing to elevated inflation rates may not be putting as much upward pressure on wages as some had anticipated.”
Restaurants Continue to Serve Up Jobs
At the start of the pandemic, the leisure and hospitality industry was hit hard when the country shut down. Now, three years later, the sector can’t seem to hire fast enough, even amid high inflation. For the fourth consecutive month, the leisure and hospitality industry led the way in the BLS monthly jobs report. With gains of 105,000, the bulk of hiring was seen in restaurants and bars.
Monster data suggests this growth may continue with employers hiring for a number of restaurant positions, ranging from fast food to fine dining in both the front- and back-of-house. Top restaurant jobs posted over the past month on Monster include:
- Food prep and serving workers (including fast food)
- Waiters and waitresses
While these are all positive signals, Santangelo reminds us that this industry isn’t out of the weeds yet. “It is important to keep in mind that the pandemic has had a significant impact on the leisure and hospitality industry, and that, while consumers seem eager to return to pre-2020 normality, it will still take time for the industry to fully cover,” he says. “While the industry has made progress in adding jobs over the past several months, it is still below pre-pandemic levels (down 410,000 jobs). Additionally, the recent rise in inflation may create challenges for businesses in the industry as they try to balance rising costs with the need to attract and retain more workers.”
For those still trying to get back to pre-pandemic employment levels, Monster data highlights where candidates are focusing their job searches within the sector. Top keyword searches over the past month include:
Increased Mobility is Driving a Shift in Hiring
Three years ago, shutdowns and safety concerns driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, left the retail industry in a state of flux. Transportation companies, on the other hand, saw demand rise as sheltering-at-home consumers splurged on TVs, computers, patio furniture, and exercise equipment.
“Early on in the pandemic, many retail businesses faced challenges as consumers shifted their spending habits and in-person shopping declined,” Santangelo says. “Meanwhile, transportation companies saw increased demand as people relied more heavily on delivery services and online shopping.”
As fears around the virus have subsided, it’s not surprising that we are seeing a shift in hiring yet again. Only this time, it’s the retail industry reaping the rewards. Last month, the BLS jobs report showed that retailers added 50,000 payrolls while transportation firms cut 22,000 jobs.
“As the pandemic recessed and more people became vaccinated, we have seen a shift in consumer behavior once again,” Santangelo says. “Many people are more comfortable with in-person shopping, which has helped drive growth in the retail industry. At the same time, transportation companies may be experiencing a dip in demand as people are more mobile and able to travel and shop in-person again.”
Monster data suggests that this trend may continue for at least the next few months. Over the past month, we’re seeing a smaller percentage of transportation jobs hiring compared to retail jobs. Some of the top retail jobs hiring include:
- Retail salespersons
- First-line supervisors
Bad News for Jobs in the Information Sector
We’ve all seen the headlines: Layoffs are happening at Disney, Netflix, the Washington Post, the list goes on. It’s clear that inflation, along with changing consumer behavior, is starting to take its toll on news and media companies.
Santangelo says, “One factor contributing to this struggle may be shifting consumer behavior and preferences.” Amid the rise of new entertainment options like gaming, social media, user-generated content, and podcasts over “traditional” news and entertainment, he says “many traditional media companies are struggling to adapt to the changing landscape and compete with media providers in the market. This can make it difficult to attract and retain audiences as well as generate revenue through advertising and other means.”
In an industry that relies heavily on advertising dollars, the declining economic outlook is making it harder for these companies to staff workers and compete in the marketplace. In fact, the Interactive Advertising Bureau predicts the U.S. advertising market to grow 5.9% in 2023, lower than the 9% growth seen in 2022. With advertisers scaling back, it’s not surprising to see that the information sector shed 25,000 payrolls last month in the BLS monthly jobs report.
Stay Tuned for the Next Monthly Jobs Report
While this month’s job numbers were solid, next month may be an entirely different story. “The average monthly job gain over the past six months has been quite strong at 343,000,” Santangelo says. “Whether or not this level of job growth will continue in the months ahead is difficult to say, as there are several factors that could impact the job market — persistence of inflation, ongoing Fed policy, CEO confidence, consumer confidence, Bird Flu, etc.”
We’ll report back here in April when the next BLS monthly jobs report comes out. In the meantime, download our 2023 Recruitment Survival Guide to stay competitive and help you plan your hiring strategy for the months ahead.