March 2024 Labor Market and Economy Report: A Look at February's Trends

By Eliza Hetrick | March 19, 2024

Executive Summary

Exceeding expectations again, the U.S. economy added 275,000 new jobs last month according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Healthcare, government and social assistance continued to be among the industries that saw the most notable jobs gains, a trend that dates back to January 2023. Construction also added 23,000 jobs in February, its highest gain since August. Meanwhile, the BLS reported little job growth last month in manufacturing, wholesale trade, information, financial activities, and professional and business services.

After three straight months at 3.7%, the unemployment rate rose to 3.9% in February. The labor force participation rate continues to hold, as it has since December, at 62.5%.

Year-over-year inflation increased slightly from 3.1% to 3.2% last month, due mostly to rising shelter (which includes rent, owners’ equivalent rent, and insurance costs) and gasoline price indexes. Airfare, car insurance, apparel and recreation price indexes rose, too.

Year-over-year wage growth stood at 4.3% in February, a slight decline compared to January’s revised rate of 4.4%. For the 12 months ending in February, wage growth still managed to outpace inflation, leading "real" average hourly earnings (wages adjusted for inflation) to increase 1.1% over the year.

Unemployment rates, specific to the industries Actalent supports, were as follows: hospitals (1.5%), utilities (1.4%), professional and technical Services (2.8%), manufacturing (3.1%), and construction (6.1%).

Among skilled labor categories Actalent sources talent for, unemployment in software-hardware-IT- mathematics was 2.7%; architecture and engineering was 1.7%; and sciences (life, physical and social) was 1.8%.

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