U.S. Employers Added 431,000 Jobs in March

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Unemployment rate fell to 3.6% as more workers seek jobs

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One factor that could help employers fill open roles: More Americans appear to be seeking a job now versus earlier in the pandemic. Clicks and job applications on jobs site ZipRecruiter have increased since mid-February. The labor-force participation rate—the share of people employed or looking for work—rose to 62.3% in February, up from 62.2% a month earlier and from a trough of 60.2% in April 2020.

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Many retirees are coming back: In February, the share of retired workers re-entering the workforce has climbed to around 3% of total retirees, its highest level since early March 2020, according to a Indeed analysis of federal labor data.

“All the constraints on the labor supply that were prevailing in 2021 have really eased,” said Lydia Boussour, economist at Oxford Economics. That is “a really important factor in driving that next leg of the recovery and getting employment back to where it was before the pandemic.”

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Household savings are declining, which is likely pressing some individuals to rejoin the labor force to collect a paycheck, especially as prices rise briskly for gasoline, groceries and rent, economists say.

With Covid-19 cases down, some workers who stayed home to care for their children during school and daycare disruptions are now free to look for a job. Fewer workers are sick or caring for ill relatives.

About 2.8 million people in early March said they were out of work because they were sick with or caring for someone with Covid-19 symptoms, down from 8.8 million in early January, according to a US Census Bureau survey.

Mark Clouse, chief executive at Campbell Soup Co., said the company’s head count has increased due, in part, to declining Covid-19 cases.

“We now see absenteeism and vacancy rates trending back to normal levels. This is translating to more production and the beginning of a return to normal distribution and inventory levels,” Mr. Clouse said in a second-quarter earnings call in March.

Companies across many industries say they still struggle to find workers. There are more job openings than unemployed people. Workers are quitting at near record rates, often for better pay, leaving some companies short-staffed, at least temporarily.

Bock Construction, Inc., a metal studs and drywall subcontractor in Chattanooga, Tenn., needs to add workers as population growth in the state propels construction demand. It is struggling in particular to find supervisors, or people who can read blueprints and direct foremen, said George Bock, the company’s Nashville regional operations manager. Many of these supervisors are older, and the pandemic accelerated their exit from the workforce, he said.

“No one is filling the gap,” Mr. Bock said. “There is just not enough people that want to get into actual physical work anymore.”

Construction workers often have to set up a piece of drywall that weighs 100 to 120 pounds, he said. Young people appear to be opting for jobs in retail and restaurants, where the work is less physically intensive and wages are rising, he added.

Bock Construction has ramped up wages about 20% during the pandemic in a bid to keep workers, he said. The company faces higher labor costs at the same time that prices for materials it must purchase—including metal studs, drywall and fasteners—are surging.

Across the economy, pay isn’t keeping up with inflation, on average. Consumer prices rose 7.9% from a year earlier in February, wiping out year-over-year average hourly earnings growth of 5.1% in February.

Still, the tight labor market is a boon for many Americans, including both job switchers and people who are out of work. Almost one-third of employees who switched jobs during the pandemic are earning a compensation package—including a salary and bonus—that is more than 30% higher in their new role, according to a survey from the Conference Board, a private-research group .

Many unemployed are quickly landing new roles. For instance, Rob Riecker, 49 years old, lost his business-analyst job at a telecom company at the end of November. More recruiters reached out to him on LinkedIn than during previous job searches, he said.

Within about a month, Mr. Riecker had a couple of job offers in hand and accepted a remote analyst position at a Virginia-based software-development company. The Parker, Colo., resident said he was able to negotiate an 18% pay increase from his previous position, well above annual inflation.

“Right now we can feel that we have a little more breathing room in our budget,” he said. “But I’m very cautious about it because you don’t know how much prices are going to keep going up.”

Write to Sarah Chaney Cambon at [email protected]

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Credit: www.Businesshala.com /

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