January 2024 Market Trends Report
The U.S. economy added 216,000 jobs in December, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Employment Situation Summary.
While job gains are slower than this time last year, the federal government continues to report steady employment gains and the unemployment rate is holding steady at 3.7 percent. Since last December, employers have added more than 2.6 million jobs.
Industrial job openings maintain levels, but labor force declines
The latest Job Opportunities and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report, which runs a month behind the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ jobs report, reported that there were 8.8 million job openings on the last business day of November.
Job openings dipped slightly in manufacturing (-14,000) and grew in construction (+43,000), while openings took a dive as seasonal hiring wound down in transportation, warehousing and utilities (-128,000)
Total separations, including quits, layoffs, discharges and other separations, fell in manufacturing (-14,000) and transportation, warehousing and utilities (-12,000), while construction employers reported 6,000 more separations in November.
Employers are still looking to hire (see Aerotek’s job board here), but the supply of workers is thinning. The overall labor force participation rate dropped in December, as did the rate for prime-age workers. After rising in the early part of the year, the prime-age (workers aged 25 to 54 years old) participation rate stalled out this summer and has steadily declined since September.
Jobs Market Overview: December 2023
Overall Unemployment Rate
The unemployment rate was flat in December
December saw employment grow once again, according to the BLS
Labor Force Participation Rate
The labor force participation rate fell by 0.3%, and remains below its pre-pandemic level of 63.4%
Industry Employment Trends
Monthly Job Change
(+1.8% YoY Difference)
|Monthly Job Change
|Warehousing & Storage
|Architectural & Engineering
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Situation Summary (bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm)
Sector by Sector News: December 2023
The latest survey from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) shows manufacturing remains slowed. The ISM reported a Manufacturing PMI of 47.4% in December, indicating economic activity contracted in the manufacturing sector for the 14th consecutive month.
Timothy R. Fiore, CPSM, C.P.M., Chair of the Institute for Supply Management® Manufacturing Business Survey Committee, said: “"Demand remains soft, and production execution is stable compared to November, as panelists' companies continue to manage outputs, material inputs and labor costs.”
Of 17 industries, just one reported growth in December, according to ISM, and that was Primary Metals.
Survey responses continued “to indicate a slowdown in hiring and, in December, a continuation of staff-reduction activity,” Fiore said. “Attrition, freezes and layoffs to reduce head counts was activity similar to November, with layoffs being the most common measure. Panelists' comments were equally split between companies hiring and others reducing their labor forces, as was the case in November.”
The construction industry added 197,000 jobs in 2023, an increase of 2.5% that includes the 17,000 jobs the industry added in December. On its face, this could be news for celebration. But industry experts urged a more complete telling of the situation facing the industry as construction job openings rose in November to 459,000.
“On one hand, economywide payroll employment expanded faster than expected in December,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “On the other hand, the labor force shrank by 676,000 persons in December… This is only one month’s data and could contain significant statistical noise. That said, the combination of faster wage growth and a smaller labor force suggests that interest rates could remain higher for longer.”
Federal funding in the form of the country’s $500 billion onshoring surge has led to high demand for the construction of manufacturing projects to get underway. But employers are struggling to find workers.
In September, Construction Dive reported employers are delaying some projects because they are struggling to find labor. Construction teams have hit pause on Scout Motors’ $2 billion EV plant in South Carolina and American Battery Factory’s $1.2 billion facility in Arizona.
Warehousing & Storage
The warehousing and storage sector reported a drop of 4,900 employees on payrolls in December, while the transportation, warehousing, and utilities sector reported 128,000 fewer jobs open in November.
At the Supply Chain Outlook Virtual Summit, editors of Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review recapped the results of their 33rd Annual Study of Logistics Transportation Trends. They said respondents were “pretty loud and clear” about labor concerns.
““Talent will continue to be a major issue that all industries are going to face,” said Christopher A. Boone, Ph.D., assistant professor at Mississippi State University. “When you think about how dependent logistics and transportation are on labor, we believe this is a topic that warrants not just continued conversation but probably some added conversation on what companies can do about it.”
Norm Saenz, Jr., partner and managing director at the St. Onge Co., echoed those sentiments. Saenz, speaking in a separate session at the Supply Chain Outlook Virtual Summit, said labor woes were at the top of the list of challenges warehouse operators faced now.
“He says both finding and retaining good employees—and in the numbers needed to handle all of the order volumes and operational growth companies are experiencing—is becoming more difficult than ever,” a report on the session said.