Unemployment dips below 4%; wages inch up
- The unemployment rate has dipped to 3.9%, following a six-month low of 4.1%, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports. The unemployed population is down slightly to 6.3 million and little change occurred in the labor force participation rate, 62.8%. Job gains were seen in professional and business services, manufacturing, health care and mining.
- At the same time, BLS says that wages have inched up 0.9%. Total compensation climbed 2.7% over a 12-month period which, according to Bloomberg, represents the largest increase in ten years.
- The American Staffing Association's president and CEO, Richard Wahlquist, said in an emailed statement that rising wages are attracting people back into the workforce. Business confidence is up, he added, and robust hiring will continue. Rebecca Henderson, Randstad SourceRight's CEO, agreed in her own emailed statement that record-low unemployment is fueling wage growth, but that trend is also mixing with a work environment in which woman can increasingly demand social justice and pay parity with men thanks in part to the #MeToo movement. Additionally, rising employment costs are causing anxiety among CEOs, who have been under pressure to contain costs since the recession, Korn Ferry reports.
The unemployment rate is the lowest it has been since 2000, illustrating just how limited breathing room is within the talent market. Employers continue to work with contractors to get by — but many do not have all the processes in place to appropriately implement this switch in strategy and address the accompanying risks, experts have told HR Dive.
And wage growth has been, according to some, overdue. With the current jobs numbers, economists generally expect to see employers use compensation to compete for talent, but they have been slow to do so, not yet confident in the economy and under pressure to keep costs in check. Instead, many have been relying on bonuses, flexibility and other benefits to attract and retain workers.
Notably, Henderson calls the low unemployment rate combined with the #MeToo movement a "perfect storm" for women seeking to fight any potential inequalities at work — meaning pay disparities may see particular attention this year.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation Summary
- Fortune The U.S. Unemployment Rate Is Now the Lowest It's Been This Century