The U.S. job market's growth tapered in August, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employers added 151,000 jobs while the unemployment rate remained steady at 4.9 percent for the third month in a row. This was a significant reduction in pace from the previous two months: There were increases of 271,000 jobs in June and 275,000 in July – the highest levels hiring numbers had reached in eight months.
The staffing and recruitment industry must be prepared to shift tactics in response to a still-tentative market and the promise of a coming hike in interest rates. The current status of the labor market may offer indications for what staffing professionals can expect from federal economic policy and the availability of jobs in months to come.
Labor numbers and the economy
The reduced hiring figures may indicate a loss of momentum in employment opportunities, at least in the short term. Staffing agencies must adjust their projections and hiring practices accordingly, focusing on how they can continue to make placements in a more constricted labor environment.
"Reduced hiring figures may indicate a loss of momentum."
In addition to the jobs report's immediate relevance for staffing professionals, it's an important indicator of fiscal policy and the overall health of the economy. Investors, economists and business owners are keeping close eyes on the monthly jobs reports in the hopes of predicting when the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates. The central bank chose not to do so in August, but as USA Today reported, said it planned to make the hike by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, surveys of consumer confidence suggested Americans are increasingly optimistic about the economy as a whole, including the employment situation. The Conference Board reported that September brought the highest numbers of Americans who think there are plenty of jobs in nine years. Workers are generally feeling better about the economy in the short term and many look forward to modest but sustained growth.
In a survey from Rutgers, 70 percent of those responding stated they believed they could find another good position if necessary. The director of the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers, Carl Van Horn, considered this a strong sign for Americans' feelings on the economy. He spoke to U.S. News and World Report about the significance of the report's findings.
"It's the best news from an attitude standpoint that we've seen in our workforce since the recession began," he said. "As people become more confident, they will probably spend more."
Staffing in today's economy
The general slackening in the job market had some impact on the numbers for contingent labor as well. The August statistics showed temporary help employment remaining stable, with a slight drop in pace from July. Overall, temporary staffing was up more than 1 percent from the previous year.
Companies remain cautious in their hiring practices, and this can affect the availability of positions for temporary labor as well as permanent jobs. Richard Wahlquist, the president and CEO of the American Staffing Association, commented on the numbers in a press release, pointing out the opportunities for skilled workers who still need jobs.
"Businesses report continued tightening of the labor market and supply of qualified candidates across several sectors, which is good news for individuals seeking employment," he said.
These conditions unavoidably narrow the volume of placements that staffing professionals can make. However, they can find continued success even as hiring slows down by concentrating on finding the right permanent and especially temporary help for organizations. The economy is still growing and offering opportunities, but it's vital to find an excellent fit for each available position.
Adapting to the current employment landscape
To place a high number of candidates in this environment, staffing agencies must work nimbly while carefully considering the skills and experience necessary for particular positions. Having thoughtful strategies and powerful tools in place facilitates making contact with a variety of jobseekers and matching them with positions.
Developing an extensive, quickly searchable database is the start of locating the highest quality candidates. Expand on these selections by carefully targeting job ads and recruitment efforts to bring in more jobseekers with specialized knowledge and experience. With social recruiting tools, you can learn more about the skills, backgrounds and ambitions of individuals.
An applicant tracking system allows agencies to view candidate information in a standardized format. From there it's a simple matter to organize profiles on the basis of particular skills or other key factors like education. Pass the data on the best qualified individuals along to clients in an easily readable and attractive presentation.
Staffing and recruitment professionals must keep pace with the overall labor market and other economic indicators. With agile practices and plenty of information on their side, they can meet the challenges presented by slowing growth and ongoing uncertainty among employers.