Labor analysts say it could be a signal that the economic slowdown may be less severe than initially expected. An average of 121,000 jobs a month were eliminated in the first four months of the 2001 recession, compared with an average of 65,000 through the first four months this year, according to the BLS.
There were bright spots in the report. Health care jobs grew by 37,000 positions and technical services added 27,000 jobs. There are areas still being pummeled—construction, manufacturing and retail. Since its peak in September 2006, 457,000 jobs have been shed from the construction industry. Meanwhile, 137,000 jobs have been eliminated from the retail sector since March 2007.
Despite the mixed labor news, companies should continue to aggressively recruit.
“The war for talent is still as fierce as ever,” says Manny Avramidis, senior vice president of Global Human Resources for the American Management Association.
He warns companies against lowering their guard because unemployment rates hovering in the 5 percent range are relatively low, meaning qualified talent is still difficult to find.
He says when unemployment crosses into the 6 percent to 7 percent range, companies have a better shot at meeting their recruiting needs because, obviously, the number of workers without a job obviously is higher.
“At that point, it becomes an employer’s market,” he says. “Right now, talent holds the cards.”