March 2024 BLS Employment Situation — Spring Hiring Competition Swells

Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the March 2024 Employment Situation, their comprehensive overview of how job growth and shrinkage month-over-month can be used as supplemental context for economic conditions. The report showed that there were 303,000 new jobs added to the labor market last month, eclipsing the predictions made by economists once again.

The unemployment rate, which measures the number of workers who currently do not have a job but are looking for work, dipped slightly to 3.8%. The labor force participation rate, measured as the percentage of the country’s civilian population 16 years and older that are either working or actively seeking work, increased slightly to 62.7% in the first change it’s made all year.

In March, healthcare led job creation once again with 72,000 new roles created; of those 72,000, the nursing and residential care facility subsector was responsible for 25% of the industry’s growth. Government was second for growth with 71,000 new roles, while leisure & hospitality claimed third with 49,000 jobs created.

Employment Situation highlights:

  • The leisure & hospitality industry officially surpassed their pre-pandemic 2020 February employment levels as of March 2024
  • March was the 39th straight month of job growth
  • Recent increases in immigration have allowed the labor force to steadily continue to grow
  • Previous reports were revised up by 22,000 jobs

The March 2024 Employment Situation left some economists expressing skepticism of such widespread hiring, while others see it as a reflection of strength and resilience in a labor market that has, so far, managed to prop up the U.S. economy. Generally speaking, the workforce participation directly correlates with the labor market’s strength to stave off the “impending” recession for over a year.

New skepticism about this continued hiring strength, however, has some projecting that the overall demand for workers will narrow to fields less reliant on cyclical economic conditions — fields that employ skilled labor workers, like healthcare and retail automotive. 

Simply put: hiring is hard right now, and it’s not going to get any easier for hiring managers and owners in skilled trade industries as top talent continues to explore opportunities in other sectors of the economy. In order to set your business up for success, you need to establish healthy hiring processes now by auditing your current interview processes, enhancing your existing tech stack, increasing engagement from your existing employees, and offer the benefits that the modern workforce really wants.  Read on to learn how!

Audit your interview process

First and foremost, you need to take a candid look at your interview process. Consider the following when evaluating your current procedure to determine whether or not you’re following interview best practices:

  • Are there steps in the process that your team tends to get caught up in? 
  • Do you know how long it takes to review candidates on average? 
  • Are all of your hiring managers asking the same questions?
  • Do you have a policy for rejecting candidates?
  • How long does it take to make a hire from initial application submission to offer letter acceptance?

There are some key HR metrics that you need access to in order to properly optimize your hiring process — and tools that can help you hire better talent faster. For instance, you can eliminate the manual and time-consuming task of coordinating schedules or playing phone tag with candidates by using an interview scheduling tool. These tools sync calendars from your hiring team to provide applicants with accurate availability for interviews, minus the dial tones. You can even reduce the amount of no-show interviews your team experiences during the hiring process by partnering with an applicant tracking system that features automated interview reminders to regularly engage with candidates ahead of their interview.  

Integrate your tech stack

Businesses that want to improve their bottom lines know that it ultimately starts with the hires they make and applicant tracking systems (ATS) are a great way to improve applicant volume and quality — but not all are built equal. By now, you no longer hear “What is an applicant tracking system?” Now, business owners are looking at the software on the market and asking themselves, “Which one is right for my business?” In order to compete in this saturated market, you need to focus on finding an ATS that seamlessly integrates with the HRIS platforms that you rely on already to run your business. 

Adding HR technology that seamlessly integrates with the rest of your tech stack is only a part of the solution, however. For instance, many payroll providers offer an ATS along with a subscription to their platform but you often get what you pay for. Consolidation isn’t always the answer to guarantee syncing — you need software that is great at what you need it to do, not just a freebie from your favorite payroll provider. Standalone ATS were developed with one goal in mind: to make better hiring easier for everyone involved in the hiring process. A free ATS, on the other hand, does not have the same caliber of insight or capability to enhance hiring to the same level of effectiveness of standalone systems that can integrate with payroll providers just as easily.

Increase employee engagement

As a business owner, you have to have one foot in the present and one in the future — and your employment strategies should reflect that. Increasing employee engagement should be a priority for owners and hiring managers in skilled trade industries as this coincides with reduced levels of employee turnover. And while we can predict that the hiring market will not become any easier for the foreseeable future, you can take measures now at your companies to reduce employee turnover to negate the need to hire later. 

There are several strategies that you can use to improve employee engagement, but in the end it really depends on the preferences of your staff on what will be most effective. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are great ways to organically increase employee engagement; examples include lunch and learns featuring staff members who are passionate about a hobby or non-work related skill, organizing time to give back to local community charity chapters based on employee interest or participation, and hosting unique fundraising events to give back to the community. 

You could also regularly ask for feedback from your team. In order to promote participation, the survey should be anonymous so staff feel free to express how they truly feel or think. The key to making this an effective tactic, however, is to actually listen to what your employees are saying and implement their requests (if they’re reasonable).

Align your benefits with what job seekers really want

The job seekers on the market today are completely different from the ones you’d find a decade ago. While the world has certainly changed, these advancements were due in part to the fact that Gen Z is in the workforce in full force these days — and they’re more drawn to the skilled trades than their Millennial counterparts. The Toolbelt Generation, as they’re also coming to be called, see the job security that careers in the skilled trades offer and would rather start their adult lives debt free instead of with a degree.

While one survey revealed that 75% of high school graduates were interested in exploring vocational schools that offer paid, on-the-job training, you don’t always have to compete on pay in order to attract and hire the best talent on the market. In fact, recent Hireology research shows that for 71% of job seekers, a benefit other than pay is the leading factor influencing their decision to accept a job offer. The top three benefits that job seekers value these days are:

  1. Schedule flexibility – While most roles in skilled trade industries can’t be performed remotely, you can always experiment with swing shifts, allowing employees to pick when they work, or switching from four 8-hour days to three 10-hour shifts instead.
  2. Career growth opportunities – The Toolbelt Generation in particular wants to develop careers that provide job stability instead of participating in the gig economy. Show them potential career paths to demonstrate the potential a career in your industry has.
  3. Fulfilling or enjoyable work: More than any other generation, Gen Z values meaningful work or feeling like what they do has an impact. Be sure to highlight how customers and your overall community benefits from your business in your online employer branding to appeal to this desire.


The March 2024 Employment Situation surpassed economists’ predictions by over 100,000 jobs with surprisingly strong job growth. Since hiring is not expected to become any easier in the skilled trade industries in the foreseeable future, hiring managers must optimize their existing interview processes, integrate their tech stacks for easier hiring processes for all involved parties, increase employee engagement to positively impact retention rates, and align employee benefits with what the modern job seeker really wants.

Consistently hiring the same candidate quality across all branches of a decentralized business can be hard — but it doesn’t have to be with Hireology. Schedule a free demo to see how you can hire better talent faster.



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