February’s employment numbers show it’s a good time to be job hunting

February’s employment numbers show it’s a good time to be job hunting

It’s a good time to be on the market for a job. Employers created 678,000 jobs in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the unemployment rate dropped to 3.8%.

In addition to those solid numbers, the job creation estimates for December and January were both revised, adding a combined 170,000 more jobs to the previous upward tally.

“It’s not totally undermining the narrative of labor shortages, but it’s certainly helping to calm nerves with respect to the question about where all the workers are,” says Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate. “The workers are being hired, and I think that the balance of power is residing with the workers.”

Job creation has been strong for the last 13 months

February’s jobs numbers were made that much better by the upward revisions that BLS made to the previous months’ reporting, which undercounted the number of jobs the US economy had actually created in December and January. Those previous estimates were off by 10%, according to the most recent data.

There’s always some give and take in the monthly jobs report: BLS relies on employers to complete its surveys, and compiles the data accordingly. BLS’ monthly timetable became harder to keep when the pandemic began and employers became more difficult to reach, and that lag continued into 2021. As more survey results come in, BLS amends its figures.

For all but one the last 13 months, BLS has amended its initial jobs report in subsequent months, sometimes by more than 50% of the original estimates upwards.

“We’re really talking about some amazing numbers in total when you look at not just one month, but the trend,” Hamrick says. “In a world that is so troubled with so much uncertainty, the jobs report is a welcome bit of good news.”

The amended jobs figures show just how strong the US economic recovery has been for months is likely a rising harbinger of continued, robust growth, despite overall challenges like gas prices and inflation.

‘We are in a great job market right now’

The consistently strong jobs reports aren’t just academic exercises in macroeconomics: They’re having real trickle-down effects on the job market, says Vicki Salemi, a career expert at Monster. There are plenty of opportunities for folks looking for new gigs right now, and those job seekers can use that to their advantage.

“We are in a great job market right now,” Salemi says. Of the human resources professionals and recruiters Monster surveyed recently, “93% say they’re planning on hiring in 2022, and half of those positions are expected to be completely new roles. So these are very good signs for both employers and jobseekers.”

Here are three ways some employers are trying to attract a large pool of applicants:

  1. Resume gaps are OK. Before the pandemic, if you went a significant amount of time between jobs, that might set off alarm bells for recruiters, Salemi says. However, the pandemic normalized career pivots. “As long as it’s a cohesive story, it’s fine,” she says.
  2. Zip code matters less. For jobs that offer remote work, recruiters and jobseekers alike can now widen their geographic searches, and those wider parameters mean more employees can find their ideal employers, even if they’re in a different timezone. “Being able to connect and use technology for video calls and video interviews” has made that possible, Salemi says.
  3. More employers will pay for your training. Companies want to hire so badly that they’ll consider candidates who may not perfectly fit the job description but can be trained, Salemi says. Some employers may be willing to pay for certifications or licensing for example, but they might also sponsor programs that build softer skills, like managerial or communications training.

“It’s a win-win for the employer and the employee,” she says. “Employer-offered training skills can hopefully boost their retention, and, as a result, perhaps the employee wants to stay longer because they see long term career growth and directory here.”

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