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March 2024 Market Trends Report

Construction worker walking on a worksite

The U.S. economy added 275,000 jobs in February, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Employment Situation Summary. 

The federal government continues to report steady employment gains and the unemployment rate remained below 4 for the 25th straight month. 

Industrial job openings maintain while 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 8.9 million job openings on the last business day of January. 

Job openings rose slightly in manufacturing (+36,000) and fell in construction (-21,000). Meanwhile, job openings fell for the fourth consecutive month in transportation, warehousing and utilities (-66,000)

Total separations, including quits, layoffs, discharges and other separations, stayed relatively stable in manufacturing (-1,000) and transportation, warehousing and utilities (+11,000), while construction employers reported 37,000 more separations in January 2024 over December 2023.

Manufacturing and construction employers are continuing to hire, with employers in both sectors reporting that they hired 23,000 more workers in the month of January.

While unemployment rose and the labor force participation rate stayed the same for a third straight month, analysts are pointing to a few signs as encouraging. 

“The employment-to-population ratio for workers ages 25 to 54 increased in February and is now reversing the decline we saw near the end of last year,” writes Nick Bunker, Economic Research Director for North America at the Indeed Hiring Lab. “A similar story is true for participation rates for these prime-age workers, particularly women. After flagging somewhat towards the end of last year, the participation rate for prime-age women jumped for the second straight month by 0.3 percentage points, an encouraging return of momentum for a key group that has led the way throughout the recovery.”

 The overall labor force participation rate dropped in February, 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: February 2024


Overall Unemployment Rate

The number of unemployed people increased by 334,000


Jobs Added

February saw employment grow again


Labor Force Participation Rate

The labor force participation rate held at 62.5% for the third consecutive month.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Situation Summary (bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm)

Industry Employment Trends




Monthly Job Change

(+1.8% YoY Difference)

Industry Monthly Job Change YoY Difference
Manufacturing -4k 0%
Automotive -0.4k +3.8%
Warehousing & Storage -6.8k -4.9%
Architectural & Engineering +6.4k +2.8%
Construction +23k +2.7%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Situation Summary (bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm)

Sector by Sector News: February 2024


Manufacturing employment fell by 4,000 in February. While fabricated metal product manufacturing saw a spike of 4,400 jobs, most subsectors within the manufacturing sector saw employment tick down marginally in the month of February.

Meanwhile, the PMI Manufacturing Index fell by 1.3 percent to 47.8 percent in February. The reading was the 16th straight month below 50, indicating economic activity contracted in the sector.

“The U.S. manufacturing sector continued to contract (and at a faster rate compared to January), with demand slowing, output easing and inputs remaining accommodative," said Timothy Fiore, chair of the Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®) Manufacturing Business Survey Committee.


The construction industry added 23,000 jobs in February. Nonresidential construction employment grew by 24,200 positions, led by the heavy and civil engineering subsector adding 12,500 positions.

More contractors indicate they plan to grow staffing in the immediate future, according to Associated Builders and Contractors. Still, ABC reports that confidence in the market may be waning in part due to high interest rates and the increasing difficulty for contractors to obtain financing.

“While it is far too early to predict an industrywide downturn given that confidence readings continue to signal growth along sales, employment and profit margin dimensions, it appears that a rising tide of project cancellations and postponements has begun to make its mark," said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. "With so much federal money still entering the economy, there will continue to be support for growth in certain construction segments, including public works and manufacturing-related megaprojects, but industry weakness is more apparent in segments that rely more purely on private financing.”

Warehousing & Storage 

Employment in warehousing and storage fell by 6,800 jobs in February. 

The Logistics Manager Index had a reading of 56.5 in February, up 0.9 from January. That's good news as the reading indicates the sector is in expansion, driven by growth in inventory levels and a tightening in warehousing capacity, according to the Index.

"This growth is driven by continued progress in transportation and the buildup of inventories upstream at the manufacturing and wholesale levels," the report said. "The overall index is up, but still below the all-time average of 62.4 – which in many ways epitomizes the current slow but positive and steady state of the U.S. economy."


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