The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its latest employment figures last week, revealing an upward trend in employment across several industries. Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 272,000 in May, surpassing the average monthly gain of 232,000 over the previous 12 months.

Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers (grouped together in the BLS data) were among those trending upward, adding 12,000 jobs. The news was neither good nor bad for other industries, including construction, manufacturing, and wholesale trade, which showed little to no change.

In terms of wages, companies continued to increase payouts. Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by nearly half a percent to $34.91. Real average hourly earnings increased 0.5% from April to May, seasonally adjusted. This increase was due to a 0.4% rise in average hourly earnings, with no change in the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers.

With a rise in earnings, productivity also showed improvement, with nonfarm business sector labor productivity increasing by 0.2% in the first quarter of 2024. Output rose by 0.9%, while hours worked increased by 0.6%. In the durable manufacturing sector, productivity increased by 1%, reflecting a 0.1% increase in output and a 0.9% decrease in hours worked. Overall, manufacturing sector labor productivity has grown at an annual rate of 0.3% during the current business cycle, with output growing by 0.1% and hours declining by 0.2%.

Amid the latest changes, the unemployment rate managed to hold steady at 4%, with 6.6 million people unemployed. A year earlier the jobless rate was 3.7% and the number of unemployed people was 6.1 million.

A breakdown of unemployment among major worker groups showed little change in May. The unemployment rates for adult men (3.8%), adult women (3.4%), and teenagers (12.3%) remained relatively stable. Rates for Whites (3.5%), Blacks (6.1%), Asians (3.1%), and Hispanics (5.0%) also showed little variation.

The number of long-term unemployed (defined as those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was 1.4 million in May, accounting for 20.7% of all unemployed people. Both the labor force participation rate, at 62.5%, and the employment-population ratio, at 60.1%, showed little change.

For companies seeking workers, the statistics indicate a pool of potential employees. The number of people employed part-time for economic reasons remained at 4.4 million in May. These individuals, preferring full-time employment, were working part-time due to reduced hours or the inability to find full-time jobs. Additionally, the number of people not in the labor force who currently want jobs came in at 5.7 million, showing little change from the previous month.

Regarding the current climate for hiring, “We are staying busy as the first half of 2024 has started off to be a record year for us. As you are aware, this does present some growth challenges in terms of human resources,” says Ted Kirk, president and co-owner of Infinity from Marvin by North Georgia Replacement Windows, in Alpharetta, Georgia. “In the past, we’ve attracted great candidates on a case-by-case basis simply through our reputation. However, with our exponential growth trajectory, the old method of praying, posting and waiting for the right candidate has turned into actively seeking multiple positions through a specialized recruiter.”

Candidates are out there, but, “The biggest challenge we face is finding the right people that fit our culture and company values well,” Kirk says. “We can train most aspects of any door and window job but we will not compromise on any of our values to just fill a position.”

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