BLS Analysis for Recruiters, March 2020

Bob Marshall’s March 2020 BLS Analysis for Recruiters; 4/3/20

March BLS Preface

TBMG Coaching Updates and Product News:



As I thought about not sending out this month’s report because of the obvious skewing of the numbers, I was forced to consider two things.  First, I have been sending this report to my database for years and many of you tell me that you look forward to reading it.  And second, to bring a sense of normalcy to the age in which we are living.  I know this is a unique time and doesn’t approach upheavals caused by a recession (and I have lived through many of those) or even a national catastrophe like 9/11.  But it’s what we have now, so we must adapt.

Now for some good news!  This pandemic should be short lived and by the time I send out next month’s report, we should be well on our way to some economic recovery.

Already in the news there are reports about seemingly effective cures (Hydroxychloroquine + azithromycin; antibody plasma injections; Remdesivir; Kevzara; etc.) and four or five vaccine candidates (U. of Pittsburgh is testing a vaccine based upon prior research on SARS in 2003 and MERS in 2014; John Hopkins is testing antibody therapy using serum from those who have recovered from this virus; etc.).  The bottom-line is that many of our best minds are engaged with a dozen or more technologies.  It seems like the end is in sight as we ‘flatten the curve.’

And so, based on all of this I decided to send out this month’s report and include the little medical update above with the total report.  I know some of the numbers in the report can be misleading, so I wouldn’t base any major business decisions on them.  But I do hope to take your mind off of the quarantine—at least for a little while.

I Send My Best!  Relax!  Stay Safe!  Live a Day at a Time!


“The Importance of Marketing—Facing The Monster – the Series

During one of the “Fordyce Forums” in Las Vegas, I was asked to conduct a three-hour pre-conference workshop entitled, “Managing the Recruiting Process”.  During that workshop, it struck me that many of the questions which were asked were focused on Marketing, or the lack thereof.  I know that Marketing is an essential key to a successful recruiting career, and so, with that in mind, I now offer to my current distribution list, the following overview, and most recent version, of my series on Marketing.

This series began on January 28th and will run every Tuesday until April 21st.  It is a 13 part series.

Part 10 was sent out last Tuesday, March 31st, and was entitled, “A Sample Marketing Presentation; Marketing Opening Statements”.


In the opinion of ex-Dallas Cowboys football coach Tom Landry who coached from 1960-1988, “A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be.”

Is now the time to pick a Coach?

I realize that taking that first step to engage a Coach to help you reach a higher level of production is not as easy as it sounds.  After all, your training investment – and your time – are important and deserve every consideration.  I share your feelings.  I believe that how you approach your recruitment career matters…that you should get what you pay for, and then some…that you should enjoy your time with your Coach as you are benefiting from it…and that you should never settle for the ordinary.

So, for those of you who have been toying with the idea of working with a recruitment coach, now may be the time.  Only you can come to that decision point.

“Teachers open the door; but you must enter by yourself”—Chinese Proverb

When considering ‘individual change management’, consider this theosophical proverb: When the student is ready, the teacher will appear!”

“Bob Marshall is a speaker’s speaker and a trainer’s trainer.  He has a gift for taking the cornerstones of the business and compelling people and teams to not only hone their skills but to execute. We’ve had Bob engage our teams a number of times over the last few years and our groups always come away more focused on the core and more energized to perform. Come ready to learn because this man knows the business and will make you better!”

—David Alexander, President, Soliant, January 2017


Many of you continue to correspond with me about these monthly BLS analyses and have asked if it is OK to use them in your presentations.  The answer is, of course, yes!  That is why I spend the time to assemble this information.  I would encourage any of you who have that desire to weave any of the information I have printed below into your presentations.  I write these analyses for the benefit of our recruitment industry in general and for the members of my distribution list in particular.  So use this info as you deem appropriate.

I also write these monthly BLS analyses to not only counterbalance the negative/incorrect press reporting of our general economic state but, more than that, to remind all of my recruitment readers that, at the level we work, there is no unemployment and so we must recruit to find the candidates our client companies so desperately need!

So, to my recruiter colleagues, get out there and do what your name implies…RECRUIT!  When your client companies have unique and difficult positions to fill, they need you.  When they are being picky, they need you.  When they are longing for more production from fewer employees, they need you.  Go fill those needs.  These should be the halcyon days in the recruitment arena!

Finally, always remember that we are not in an HR business, but in a ‘circumventing the time factor in the hiring sequence’ business—and adding value to our client companies.

Workers, Small Business Can’t Afford COVID-19 Quarantine: SHRM

Daily News, April 1, 2020

Workers and small businesses can’t afford the Covid-19 quarantine, according to a poll by the Society for Human Resource Management.

It found that half of small businesses can’t afford to pay employees for a full month under the current economic lockdown, and 20% can only afford to pay workers for one week or less.  Meanwhile, 20% of American workers say they will be unable to meet their basic financial needs in 1 week or less — this is defined as paying rent, buying groceries and paying bills.

“Headlines have highlighted the pandemic’s impact on Wall Street, but the bigger story might be the economic shockwaves hitting the businesses and workers on Main Street,” SHRM President and CEO Johnny Taylor Jr. said.

The poll also found 50% of US workers say their jobs cannot be done remotely, and only 31% of small businesses say they can operate totally remotely.

More than half of small businesses expect revenue losses of 10% to 20% because of Covid-19.

The survey included 492 working Americans, 512 small-business owners and 518 HR professionals.

US in Recession Fueled by Covid-19, Forecast Says

Daily News, March 17, 2020

The US is now in a recession amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and the economic expansion that began in July 2009 has ended, the University of California Los Angeles’ Anderson Forecast reported Monday.  It forecast the recession to continue through the end of September.

It joined several other organizations that pointed to recession in the US and globally.

“After the economy had experienced a solid start to 2020, the escalating effects of the coronavirus pandemic in March have reduced the first-quarter 2020 forecast of GDP growth to 0.4%,” according to the Anderson Forecast.  “GDP for the second quarter of the year is now forecast to slow by 6.5%, and by 1.9% for the third quarter.”

Assuming an end to the Covid-19 pandemic and repair to supply chains this summer, the Anderson Forecast predicted normal activity will resume in the fourth quarter with a growth rate of 4.0%.

For the full year 2020, it expects US GDP will have declined by 0.4%.

The economy is expected to grow 1.5% in 2021 and a full recovery is foreseen in 2022.

California is expected to be harder hit than others, with a loss of more than 280,000 payroll jobs with more than one-third of those in the “leisure and hospitality” and “transportation and warehousing” sectors, the Anderson Forecast said.

It noted the forecast will be too optimistic if the Covid-19 pandemic proves worse than assumed.  On the other hand, the forecast could be too pessimistic if the pandemic abates quickly.

Separately, S&P Global forecast a global recession this year with world GDP rising 1% to 1.5%.  “Restrictions on movement in Europe and the US are putting a severe dent in economic activity.  Covid-19 is affecting all aspects of life,” according to the article.  The US is expected to post marginally negative growth in the first quarter with a big hit coming in the second, according to its forecast.

Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs also reported a global recession is underway, Bloomberg reported.

Attorneys General Again Call for End to Excessive Use of Noncompete Agreements

Daily News, March 13, 2020

A coalition of attorneys general from 16 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico again called on the Federal Trade Commission to stop the excessive use of noncompete agreements in the workplace.

“Low-wage workers are vulnerable to exploitation when employers require noncompete clauses in employment contracts,” Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said in a statement.  “The FTC should take action to protect them.”

Attorneys general had previously addressed noncompetes in July, and in November had asked the FTC to curb the excessive use of such agreements.  However, the FTC again asked for public comment on noncompetes in January of this year.

A noncompete is an agreement in an employment contract that limits employees from taking a new job or starting their business in the same industry within a geographic area for a certain period of time after leaving their current position.  Nearly 25% of US workers are covered by noncompetes and 53% of those are low-wage workers, according to Frosh’s office.

The attorneys general argue noncompetes harm workers by restricting job mobility and depressing wages; harm consumers by stifling entrepreneurship, innovation and price competition; are overused and unjustified for low-wage workers.

Justifications for such agreements — such as protecting trade secrets and ensuring return on investment in training — are not persuasive, particularly in regard to low-wage workers, the attorneys general argue.  Low-wage workers rarely, if ever, have access to trade secrets, are not intensively trained and are unable to freely negotiate their contracts.

“Noncompete agreements block low-wage workers from finding jobs that offer them better benefits and higher pay,” Washington DC Attorney General Karl Racine said.  “We are urging the FTC to crack down on these harmful contracts that give too much power to employers and deny fair competition in our marketplaces.”

In addition to Maryland and Washington DC, attorneys general taking part in the effort represent California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington.

“Noncompete agreements are already unenforceable in California,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.  “It’s time for the federal government to catch up and help put an end to anticompetitive practices that depress wages and hurt consumers.  Employers should look to attract workers through wages, benefits, and quality of work, not one-sided provisions that block access to better opportunities.”

US Workers More Likely to Remain with Current Employers Than Those Surveyed in 40 Other Countries

Daily News, March 12, 2020

Nearly 53% of US workers polled in the fourth quarter expressed high intent to remain with their current employers, Gartner Inc. reported today.  Across 40 countries surveyed, the US ranked No. 1 with the highest level of employee intent to remain with their current employers.

Meanwhile, 13.5% of US workers were actively seeking a job in the fourth quarter of last year.  That’s down from 14.9% in the third quarter and up from 12.5% in the second quarter.

“As the US labor market remains highly competitive with an unemployment rate under 4%, companies looking for talent to fill open positions are finding that workers are staying with their employers and not actively seeking new positions,” said Brian Kropp, chief of research for the Gartner HR practice.

“That said,” Kropp continued, “the disruption organizations are currently facing due to Covid-19 is likely to affect the labor market, including intent to stay, job seeking and business confidence.”

The survey also found employee business confidence levels had decreased each quarter from the second quarter through the fourth, Gartner reported.

Gartner’s survey, the Gartner Global Labor Market Survey, is sourced from more than 40,000 employees in 40 countries and regions.

The new ADP/Moody’s National Employment Report: Private Sector Employment Decreased by 27,000 Jobs in March

April 1, 2020

Private sector employment decreased by 27,000 jobs from February to March.  The report utilizes data through the 12th of the month.  The NER uses the same time period the Bureau of Labor and Statistics uses for their survey.  As such, the March NER does not reflect the full impact of COVID-19 on the overall employment situation.

*Note:  The February total of jobs added was revised down from 183,000 to 179,000.

This report is produced by ADP® in collaboration with Moody’s Analytics.  The matched sample used to develop the ADP National Employment Report® was derived from ADP payroll data, which represents 460,000 U.S. clients employing nearly 26,000,000 workers in the U.S.

By Company Size

Small businesses:             <-90,000>

1-19 employees                 <-66,000>

20-49 employees               <-24,000>

Medium businesses:              7,000

50-499 employees                   7,000

Large businesses:                56,000

500-999 employees                  1,000

1,000+ employees                  55,000

By Sector

I.  Goods-producing:                                <-9,000>

A.  Natural resources/mining                              1,000

B.  Construction                                              <-16,000>

C.  Manufacturing                                                 6,000

II.  Service-providing:                            <-18,000>

A.  Trade/transportation/utilities                     <-37,000>

B.  Information                                                 <-7,000>

C.  Financial activities                                                             0

D.  Professional/business services                    <-3,000>

                        1.  Professional/technical services                                11,000

                        2.  Management of companies/enterprises                  <-2,000>

                        3.  Administrative/support services                           <-12,000>

            E.  Education/health services                                48,000

                        1.  Health care/social assistance                                    44,000

                        2.  Education                                                                    4,000

            F.  Leisure/hospitality                                       <-11,000>

            G.  Other services                                                <-8,000>

Franchise Employment

Franchise Jobs                        <-4,300>

“It is important to note that the ADP National Employment Report is based on the total number of payroll records for employees who were active on a company’s payroll through the 12th of the month.  This is the same time period the Bureau of Labor and Statistics uses for their survey,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, co-head of the ADP Research Institute.  “As such, the March NER does not fully reflect the most recent impact of COVID-19 on the employment situation, including unemployment claims reported on March 26, 2020.

(The April 2020 ADP National Employment Report will be released at 8:15 a.m. ET on May 6, 2020.)

Due to the important contribution that small businesses make to economic growth, employment data that is specific to businesses with 49 or fewer employees is reported each month in the ADP Small Business Report®, a subset of the ADP National Employment Report.

March 2020 Small Business Report Highlights

Total Small Business Employment:             <-90,000>

●By Size  
►1-19 employees <-66,000>
►20-49 employees <-24,000>
●By Sector for 1-49 Employees  
►Goods Producing <-14,000>
►Service Producing <-77,000>
●By Sector for 1-19 Employees  
►Goods Producing <-10,000>
►Service Producing <-57,000>
●By Sector for 20-49 Employees  
►Goods Producing <-4,000>
►Service Producing <-20,000>

Bottom-line:  To my audience of recruiters, always remember this:  Our ‘bread and butter’, especially on the contingency side of the house, has historically been, and continues to be, small and medium-sized client companies.  Along with the large companies, these companies need to be in included in your niche!

Job Openings and Labor Turnover – January 2020

March 17, 2020

The number of job openings rose to 7,000,000 (+411,000) on the last business day of January, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.  Over the month, hires and separations were little changed at 5,800,000 and 5,600,000, respectively.  Within separations, the quits rate was unchanged at 2.3% and the layoffs and discharges rate was little changed at 1.1%.  This release includes estimates of the number and rate of job openings, hires, and separations for the total nonfarm sector, by industry, and by 4 geographic regions.  The release also includes 2019 annual estimates for hires and separations.  The annual number of hires at 69,900,000 and the annual number of quits at 42,100,000 increased in 2019.  The annual number of layoffs and discharges at 21,700,000 edged down in 2019.
Job Openings
On the last business day of January, the job openings level rose to 7,000,000 (+411,000), and the job openings rate increased to 4.4%.  Over the month, the number of job openings increased for total private (+370,000) and edged up for government (+40,000).  Job openings increased in finance and insurance (+65,000), federal government (+38,000), and mining and logging (+8,000). The number of job openings rose in the South region.
In January, the number and rate of hires was little changed at 5,800,000 and 3.8%, respectively.  The hires level was little changed in all industries.  The number of hires decreased in the Midwest region. 
Total separations includes quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations.  Total separations is referred to as turnover.  Quits are generally voluntary separations initiated by the employee.  Therefore, the quits rate can serve as a measure of workers’ willingness or ability to leave jobs.  Layoffs and discharges are involuntary separations initiated by the employer.  Other separations includes separations due to retirement, death, disability, and transfers to other locations of the same firm.
In January, the number and rate of total separations was little changed at 5,600,000 and 3.7%, respectively.  The number of total separations decreased in federal government 
(-6,000).  The total separations level decreased in the West region.
The number of quits was little changed in January at 3,500,000 and the rate was unchanged at 2.3%.  The quits level was little changed for total private but fell for government (-18,000).  Quits decreased in other services (-46,000), state and local government education (-12,000), and federal government (-5,000).  The quits level increased in real estate and rental and leasing (+14,000).  The number of quits was little changed in all 4 regions.
The number of layoffs and discharges decreased in January to 1,700,000 (-209,000) and the rate was little changed at 1.1%.  Layoffs and discharges decreased for total private 
(-214,000) but was little changed for government.  The layoffs and discharges level decreased in real estate and rental and leasing (-15,000) and mining and logging (-9,000).  The number of layoffs and discharges decreased in the South region.
The number of other separations increased in January (+58,000).  Other separations increased for total private (+61,000) but was little changed for government.  The largest increases in other separations were in health care and social assistance (+26,000) and transportation, warehousing, and utilities (+9,000).  The number of other separations increased in the South region.
Net Change in Employment
Large numbers of hires and separations occur every month throughout the business cycle.  Net employment change results from the relationship between hires and separations.  When the number of hires exceeds the number of separations, employment rises, even if the hires level is steady or declining.  Conversely, when the number of hires is less than the number of separations, employment declines, even if the hires level is steady or rising.
Over the 12 months ending in January, hires totaled 70,000,000 and separations totaled 67,900,000, yielding a net employment gain of 2,100,000.  These totals include workers who may have been hired and separated more than once during the year.
Annual Levels and Rates
Consistent with BLS practice, annual estimates are published for not seasonally adjusted data and are published with the January news release each year.  Annual estimates are not calculated for job openings because job openings are a stock, or point-in-time, measurement for the last business day of each month.  Calculating annual levels and rates allows additional comparisons across years.  Annual levels for hires, quits, layoffs and discharges, other separations, and total separations are the sum of the 12 published monthly levels.  Annual rates are computed by dividing the annual level by the Current Employment Statistics (CES) annual average employment level and multiplying that quotient by 100. 
In 2019, there were 69,900,000 hires, an increase of 1,300,000 from 2018.  Total separations (the sum of quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations) rose by 1,700,000 in 2019 to 67,900,000.  Quits rose for the tenth consecutive year reaching 42,100,000 in 2019, up by 1,800,000.  Quits comprised 62.1% of total separations.  Layoffs and discharges edged down by 64,000 in 2019 to 21,700,000 and comprised 32% of total separations.  Other separations edged down by 63,000 in 2019 to 4,000,000 and comprised 5.9% of total separations.
The annual hires for 2019 was 46.3% of the annual average CES employment level.  This rate has been trending upwards since 2009.  The annual total separations rate for 2019 was 45.0%.  The annual rates for the components of total separations were 27.9% for quits, 14.4% for layoffs and discharges, and 2.7% for other separations.
The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey estimates for February 2020 are scheduled to be released on Tuesday, April 7, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. (EDT).

Online Labor Demand Remains Flat in February

March 11, 2020

*February index unchanged, following a small decline in January

*Despite slight downward trend over the past year, HWOL Index remains at high level

The Conference Board®-Burning Glass® Help Wanted OnLine™ (HWOL) Index was unchanged in February and remains at 101.4 (July 2018=100).  The Index declined 1.0% (from December to January) and is down 4.9% from a year ago. 

Despite being on a slightly downward trend over the past year, the HWOL Index is still hovering at high levels.  However, the COVID-19 outbreak will likely cause the number of online job ads to decline in the coming months.

The Help Wanted OnLine™ Index is produced in collaboration with Burning Glass Technologies, the global pioneer in real-time labor market data and analysis. This recent collaboration enhances the Help Wanted OnLine™ program by providing additional insights into important labor market trends.

Help Wanted OnLine™ (HWOL) Index: United States, seasonally adjusted, February 2020 [July 2018=100].

The Conference Board®-Burning Glass® Help Wanted OnLine™ (HWOL) Index measures changes over time in advertised online job vacancies, reflecting monthly trends in employment opportunities across the US.  The HWOL Data Series aggregates the total number of ads available by month from the HWOL universe of online job ads.  Ads in the HWOL universe are collected in real-time from over 50,000 online job domains including traditional job boards, corporate boards, social media sites, and smaller job sites that serve niche markets and smaller geographic areas.

Like The Conference Board’s long-running Help Wanted Advertising Index of print ads (which was published for over 55 years and discontinued in July 2008), Help Wanted OnLine™ measures help wanted advertising, i.e. labor demand.  The HWOL Data Series began in May 2005 and was revised in December 2018.  With the December 2018 revision, The Conference Board released the HWOL Index, improving upon the HWOL Data Series’ ability to assess local labor market trends by reducing volatility and non-economic noise and improving correlation with local labor market conditions.

In 2019, the Help Wanted OnLine™ program partnered with Burning Glass Technologies, Inc., the new sole provider of online job ad data for HWOL  With the partnership, the HWOL Data Series has been revised historically to reflect a new universe and methodology of online job advertisements and therefore cannot be used in conjunction with the pre-revised HWOL Data Series.  The HWOL Data Series begins in January 2015 and the HWOL Index begins in December 2005.  HWOL Index values prior to 2020 are based on job ads collected by CEB, Inc.

Those using this data are urged to review the information on the database and methodology available on The Conference Board website and contact us with questions and comments.  Background information and technical notes and discussion of revisions to the series are available at:

About The Conference Board

The Conference Board is the member-driven think tank that delivers trusted insights for what’s ahead. Founded in 1916, we are a non-partisan, not-for-profit entity holding 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt status in the United States.

About Burning Glass Technologies, Inc.

Burning Glass Technologiesdelivers job market analytics that empower employers, workers, and educators to make data-driven decisions.  Powered by the world’s largest and most sophisticated database of labor market data and talent, Burning Glass Technologies analyzes hundreds of millions of job postings and real-life career transitions to provide insight into labor market patterns.  Users of our products include corporate human resources departments, market analysts and employment services firms as well as the federal, state and local labor market analysts that use HWOL.  For more information, please visit:

The next release is Wednesday, April 15th, 2020 at 10 AM.

U-6 Update

In March 2020 the regular unemployment rate rose .9% to 4.4% and the broader U-6 measure rose 1.7% to 8.7%.

The above 8.7% is referred to as the U-6 unemployment rate (found in the monthly BLS Employment Situation Summary, Table A-15; Table A-12 in 2008 and before).  It counts not only people without work seeking full-time employment (the more familiar U-3 rate), but also counts “marginally attached workers and those working part-time for economic reasons.”  Note that some of these part-time workers counted as employed by U-3 could be working as little as an hour a week.  And the “marginally attached workers” include those who have gotten discouraged and stopped looking, but still want to work.  The age considered for this calculation is 16 years and over.

Here is a look at the March U-6 numbers for the previous 17 years:

March 2019                 7.3%

March 2018                 7.9%

March 2017                 8.8%

March 2016                 9.8%

March 2015                 10.9%

March 2014                 12.6%

March 2013                 13.8%

March 2012                 14.5%

March 2011                 15.7%

March 2010                 16.8%

March 2009                 15.6%

March 2008                 9.1%

March 2007                 8.0%

March 2006                 8.2%

March 2005                 9.1%

March 2004                 9.9%

March 2003                 10.0%

The March 2020 BLS Analysis

Total nonfarm payroll employment fell by 701,000 in March.  The changes in these measures reflect the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and efforts to contain it.  Employment in leisure and hospitality fell by 459,000, mainly in food services and drinking places.  Notable declines also occurred in health care and social assistance, professional and business services, retail trade, and construction.
The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for January was revised down by 59,000 from +273,000 to +214,000, and the change for February was revised up by 2,000 from +273,000 to +275,000.  With these revisions, employment gains in January and February combined were 57,000 lower than previously reported.  (Monthly revisions result from additional reports received from businesses and government agencies since the last published estimates and from the recalculation of seasonal factors.)  After revisions, job gains averaged 245,000 per month for January and February.

The unemployment rate is also published by the BLS.  That rate is found by dividing the number of unemployed by the total civilian labor force.  On April 3rd, 2020, the BLS published the most recent unemployment rate for March 2020 of 4.4% (actually, it is 4.383% up by .866% from 3.517% in February 2020.

The unemployment rate was determined by dividing the unemployed of 7,140,000 (–up from the month before by 1,353,000—since March 2019 this number has increased by 946,000) by the total civilian labor force of 162,913,000 (down by 1,633,000 from February 2020).  Since March 2019, our total civilian labor force has decreased by 22,000 workers.

(The continuing ‘Strange BLS Math’ saga—after a detour in December 2016 when the BLS {for the first time in years} DECREASED the total Civilian Noninstitutional Population—this month the BLS once again increased this total to 259,758,000.  This is an increase of 130,000 from last month’s increase of 126,000.  In one year, this population has increased by 1,221,000. For the last 3 years the Civilian Noninstitutional Population has increased each month—except in December 2016, December 2018 & December 2019—by…)

Up from February 2020by130,000
Up from January 2020by126,000
Down from December 2019by679,000
Up from November 2019by161,000
Up from November 2019by161,000
Up from October 2019by175,000
Up from September 2019by207,000
Up from August 2019by206,000
Up from July 2019by207,000
Up from June 2019by188,000
Up from May 2019by176,000
Up from April 2019by168,000
Up from March 2019by156,000
Up from February 2019by145,000
Up from January 2019by153,000
Down from December 2018by649,000
Up from November 2018by180,000
Up from October 2018by194,000
Up from September 2018by224,000
Up from August 2018by224,000
Up from July 2018by223,000
Up from June 2018by201,000
Up from May 2018by188,000
Up from April 2018by182,000
Up from March 2018by175,000
Up from February 2018by163,000
Up from January 2018by154,000
Up from December 2017by671,000
Up from November 2017by160,000
Up from October 2017by183,000
Up from September 2017by204,000
Up from August 2017by205,000
Up from July 2017by206,000
Up from June 2017by194,000
Up from May 2017by173,000
Up from April 2017by179,000
Up from March 2017by174,000
Up from February 2017by168,000

This month the BLS has decreased the Civilian Labor Force to 162,913,000 (down from February by 1,633,000, mainly due to the forced shutdown of the economy).

Subtract the second number (‘civilian labor force’) from the first number (‘civilian noninstitutional population’) and you get 96,845,000 ‘Not in Labor Force’—up by 1,763,000 from last month’s 95,082,000.  In one year, this NILF population has increased by 1,243,000.  Almost all of this increase is because of the economic shutdown.  Also, the government tells us that most of these NILFs got discouraged and just gave up looking for a job.  My monthly recurring question is: “If that is the case, how do they survive when they don’t earn any money because they don’t have a job?  Are they ALL relying on the government to support them??”

This month, our Employment Participation Rate—the population 16 years and older working or seeking work—remained at 62.7%.  This is .3% above the historically low rate of 62.4% recorded in September 2015—and, before that, the rate recorded in October 1977—9 months into Jimmy Carter’s presidency—almost 40 years ago!

Final take on these numbers:  Fewer people looking for work will always bring down the unemployment rate.

Anyway, back to the point I am trying to make.  On the surface, these new unemployment rates are scary, but let’s look a little deeper and consider some other numbers.

The unemployment rate includes all types of workers—construction workers, government workers, etc.  We recruiters, on the other hand, mainly place management, professional and related types of workers.  That unemployment rate in March was 2.5% (this rate was .7% higher than last month’s 1.8%).  Or, you can look at it another way.  We usually place people who have college degrees.  That unemployment rate in March was2.5% (this rate was .6% higher than last month’s 1.9%).

Now stay with me a little longer.  This gets better.  It’s important to understand (and none of the pundits mention this) that the unemployment rate, for many reasons, will never be 0%, no matter how good the economy is.  Without boring you any more than I have already, let me add here that Milton Friedman (the renowned Nobel Prize-winning economist), is famous for the theory of the “natural rate of unemployment” (or the term he preferred, NAIRU, which is the acronym for Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment).  Basically, this theory states that full employment presupposes an ‘unavoidable and acceptable’ unemployment rate of somewhere between 4-6% with it.  Economists often settle on 5%, although the “New Normal Unemployment Rate” has been suggested to fall at 6.7%.

Nevertheless (if you will allow me to apply a ‘macro’ concept to a ‘micro’ issue), if this rate is applied to our main category of Management, Professional and Related types of potential recruits, and/or our other main category of College-Degreed potential recruits, we are well below the 4-6% threshold for full employment…we find no unemployment!  None!  Zilch!  A Big Goose Egg! 


“The economic goal of any nation, as of any individual, is to get the greatest results with the least effort.  The whole economic progress of mankind has consisted in getting more production with the same labor…Translated into national terms, this first principle means that our real objective is to maximize production.  In doing this, full employment—that is, the absence of involuntary idleness—becomes a necessary by-product.  But production is the end, employment merely the means.  We cannot continuously have the fullest production without full employment.  But we can very easily have full employment without full production.”

–Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt, Chapter X, “The Fetish of Full Employment”

On March 26th, the US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) announced the real gross domestic product (GDP) -- the value of the goods and services produced by the nation’s economy less the value of the goods and services used up in production, adjusted for price changes – increased at an annual rate of 2.1% in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to the "third" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.  In the third quarter, real GDP increased 2.1%

The GDP estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the “second” estimate issued last month.  In the second estimate, the increase in real GDP was also 2.1%.  In the third estimate, an upward revision to personal consumption expenditures (PCE) was largely offset by downward revisions to federal government spending and nonresidential fixed investment

The increase in real GDP in the fourth quarter reflected positive contributions from PCE, exports, residential fixed investment, federal government spending, and state and local government spending that were partly offset by negative contributions from private inventory investment and nonresidential fixed investment.  Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, decreased.

Real GDP growth in the fourth quarter was the same as that in the third. In the fourth quarter, a downturn in imports and an acceleration in government spending were offset by a larger decrease in private inventory investment and a slowdown in PCE.

Updates to GDP

In the third estimate, the fourth-quarter growth rate in real GDP was unrevised from the second estimate.  PCE, residential investment, and state and local government spending were revised up.  These upward revisions were offset by downward revisions to federal government spending and nonresidential fixed investment as well as an upward revision to imports.

GDP for 2019

Real GDP increased 2.3% in 2019 (from the 2018 annual level to the 2019 annual level), compared with an increase of 2.9% in 2018.

The increase in real GDP in 2019 reflected positive contributions from PCE, nonresidential fixed investment, federal government spending, state and local government spending, and private inventory investment that were partly offset by a negative contribution from residential fixed investment.  Imports increased.

The deceleration in real GDP in 2019, compared to 2018, primarily reflected decelerations in nonresidential fixed investment, exports, and PCE which were partly offset by accelerations in both state and local and federal government spending.  Imports increased less in 2019 than in 2018.

Three Update Releases to GDP
BEA releases 3 vintages of the current quarterly estimate for GDP:  "Advance" estimates are released near the end of the first month following the end of the quarter and are based on source data that are incomplete or subject to further revision by the source agency; “second” and “third” estimates are released near the end of the second and third months, respectively, and are based on more detailed and more comprehensive data as they become available.

*          *          *

(Next release, April 29, 2020 at 8:30 A.M. EDT
Gross Domestic Product, First Quarter 2020 (Advance Estimate)



‘Unemployment’ is an emotional ‘trigger’ word…a ‘third rail’, if you will.  It conjures up negative thoughts.  But it is important to realize that, while we want everyone who wants a job to have the opportunity to work, unemployment can never be zero and, in fact, can be disruptive to an economy if it gets too close to zero.  Very low unemployment can actually hurt the economy by creating an upward pressure on wages which invariably leads to higher production costs and prices.  This can lead to inflation.  The lowest the unemployment rate has been in the US was 2.5%.  That was in May and June 1953 when the economy overheated due to the Korean War.  When this bubble burst, it kicked off the Recession of 1953.  A healthy economy will always include some percentage of unemployment.

There are five main sources of unemployment:

1.  Cyclical (or demand-deficient) unemployment – This type of unemployment fluctuates with the business cycle.  It rises during a recession and falls during the subsequent recovery.  Workers who are most affected by this type of unemployment are laid off during a recession when production volumes fall, and companies use lay-offs as the easiest way to reduce costs.  These workers are usually rehired, some months later, when the economy improves.

2.  Frictional unemployment – This comes from the normal turnover in the labor force.  This is where new workers are entering the workforce and older workers are retiring and leaving vacancies to be filled by the new workers or those re-entering the workforce.  This category includes workers who are between jobs.

3.  Structural unemployment – This happens when the skills possessed by the unemployed worker don’t match the requirements of the opening—whether those be in characteristics and skills or in location.  This can come from new technology or foreign competition (e.g., foreign outsourcing).  This type of unemployment usually lasts longer than frictional unemployment because retraining, and sometimes relocation, is involved.  Occasionally jobs in this category can just disappear overseas.

4.  Seasonal unemployment – This happens when the workforce is affected by the climate or time of year.  Construction workers and agricultural workers aren’t needed as much during the winter season because of the inclement weather.  On the other hand, retail workers experience an increase in hiring shortly before, and during, the holiday season, but can be laid off shortly thereafter.

5.  Surplus unemployment – This is caused by minimum wage laws and unions.  When wages are set at a higher level, unemployment can often result.  Why?  To keep within the same payroll budget, the company must let go of some workers to pay the remaining workers a higher salary.

Other factors influencing the unemployment rate:

1.  Length of unemployment – Some studies indicate that an important factor influencing a worker’s decision to accept a new job is directly related to the length of the unemployment benefit they are receiving.  Currently, in 2019, workers in most states are eligible for up to 26 weeks of benefits from the regular state-funded unemployment compensation program.  One state (MT) offers more and ten states offer less.  Studies suggest that additional weeks of benefits reduce the incentive of the unemployed to seek and accept less-desirable jobs.

2.  Changes in GDP – Since hiring workers takes time, the improvement in the unemployment rate usually lags the improvement in the GDP.


Now back to the issue at hand, namely the recruiting, and placing, of professionals and those with college degrees.

If you look at the past 20 years of unemployment in the March “management, professional and related” types of worker category, you will find the following rates:

March 2019                 2.0%

March 2018                 2.0%

March 2017                 2.0%

March 2016                 2.4%

March 2015                 2.4%

March 2014                 3.3%

March 2013                 3.6%

March 2012                 4.2%

March 2011                 4.3%

March 2010                 4.7%

March 2009                 4.2%

March 2008                 2.1%

March 2007                 1.8%

March 2006                 2.1%

March 2005                 2.3%

March 2004                 2.7%

March 2003                 2.9%

March 2002                 2.8%

March 2001                 2.0%

March 2000                 1.8%

Here are the rates, during those same time periods, for “college-degreed” workers:

March 2019                 2.0%

March 2018                 2.2%

March 2017                 2.5%

March 2016                 2.6%

March 2015                 2.5%

March 2014                 3.4%

March 2013                 3.8%

March 2012                 4.2%

March 2011                 4.4%

March 2010                 4.8%

March 2009                 4.4%

March 2008                 2.1%

March 2007                 1.8%

March 2006                 2.2%

March 2005                 2.4%

March 2004                 2.9%

March 2003                 3.1%

March 2002                 2.8%

March 2001                 1.9%

March 2000                 1.6%

The March 2020 rates for these two categories, 2.5% and 2.5%, respectively, are fairly low, especially when considering so many workers are sheltering in place in their homes and not going to work.  And yet the 2.5% rates are at, or close to, the halcyon numbers we attained in 2018-2019 and in the 2000-2001 & 2006-2008 time frames.  But regardless, these unemployment numbers usually include a good number of job hoppers, job shoppers and rejects.  We, on the other hand, are engaged by our client companies to find those candidates who are happy, well-appreciated, making good money and currently working and we entice them to move for even better opportunities—especially where new technologies are expanding.  This will never change.  And that is why, no matter the overall unemployment rate, we still need to MARKET to find the best possible job orders to work and we still need to RECRUIT to find the best possible candidates for those Job Orders.

Below are the numbers for the over 25-year old’s:

Less than H.S. diploma – Unemployment Rate


H.S. Grad; no college – Unemployment Rate


Some College; or AA/AS – Unemployment Rate


BS/BS + – Unemployment Rate


Management, Professional & Related – Unemployment Rate


Or employed…(,000)


And unemployed…(,000)


For a total Management, Professional & Related workforce of…(,000)


Management, Business and Financial Operations – Unemployment Rate


Professional & Related – Unemployment Rate


Sales & Related – Unemployment Rate