Actalent Labor Market and Economy Report: A Look at Trends in March 2024

By Eliza Hetrick | April 16, 2024

Executive Summary

Job Growth

The ongoing trend of U.S. job growth outperforming expectations continued in March, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Job growth in healthcare and government again led the way, accounting for 143,000 of the total 303,000 jobs gained. Leisure and hospitality followed with 49,000.

Notably, construction gained 39,000 jobs last month, well surpassing its six-month high of 26,000 from February.

Meanwhile, BLS again reported little job growth in manufacturing, wholesale trade, information, financial activities, and professional and business services.

Of note, the ratio of private sector employees to government sector employees has now decreased every month since December 2022 — from 5.9-to-1 to 5.8-to-1 — according to St. Louis federal reserve statistics. That’s the longest period of consecutive declines since June 2007 to May 2010. While the private sector workforce remains larger than the government-employed workforce, the margin between the two is slowly but steadily narrowing.

Unemployment and Labor Force Participation

The unemployment rate dipped slightly from 3.9% in February to 3.8% in March. And, after three months of holding 62.5%, the labor force participation rate edged upward to 62.7%.

Unemployment rates, specific to the industries Actalent supports, were as follows for March: hospitals (1.5%), utilities (1.6%), professional and technical Services (3.1%), manufacturing (3.1%), and construction (6.4%).

Among skilled labor categories Actalent sources talent for, unemployment in software-hardware-IT-mathematics was 2.9%; architecture and engineering was 2.1%; and sciences (life, physical and social) was 1.9%.


Year-over-year inflation rose higher than expected, increasing from 3.2% in February to 3.5% in March. Rising shelter price (which includes rent, owners’ equivalent rent, and insurance costs) and gasoline price indexes continue to be the main drivers of inflation. Car insurance, medical care, apparel and personal care indexes also rose, while new and used vehicle indexes decreased.

Wage Growth

Average hourly earnings increased 4.1% between March 2023 and March 2024. The year-over-year hourly earnings rate has now decreased two months in a row, down from 4.3% in February and 4.4% in January. Year-over-year "real" average hourly earnings (wages adjusted for inflation) increased 0.6% from March 2023 to March 2024, a decline compared to February’s 1.1% rate of increase.

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