January 2024 Labor Market and Economy Report: A Look at December's Trends

By Mike McGuire | January 18, 2024

Executive Summary

Job growth exceeded expectations in December, with 216,000 jobs added. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job gains in government (+52,000) and healthcare (+37,700) led the way, with employment in professional, scientific, and technical services (+25,000) and construction (+17,000) also trending upward. Of note, consumer and industrial products grew by 6,000 jobs, alongside the aerospace and defense industries which added 3,500 jobs. Job openings changed little, hovering at 8.8 million.

The unemployment rate stood unchanged at 3.7%, while layoffs and job quits both eased, dropping below pre-pandemic norms. The labor force participation rate also declined from 62.8% in November 2023 to 62.5% in December, an undesired labor market trend considering the ongoing need for workers.

Inflation increased from 3.1% in November to 3.4% in December, driven heavily by rising shelter prices. Meanwhile, wage growth improved to 4.1% year-over-year, a slight increase from November. Real earnings adjusted for inflation remained the same, up 0.8% year-over-year.

Specific to the industries Actalent supports, unemployment rates were as follows: hospitals (1.5%), utilities (1.8%), professional and technical services (2.5%), manufacturing (3.1%), and construction (4.4%).

Among skilled labor categories Actalent sources talent for, unemployment in software-hardware-IT-mathematics was 2%; architecture and engineering was 1.8%; and sciences (life, physical and social) was 1.1%.

Relevant Insights