U.S. Labor Market Update: April 2024

U.S. Labor Market Update: April 2024

Key Takeaways:

  • Job openings, quits, and layoffs all fell last month, signaling a cooling labor market.
  • The pay incentive to change jobs is down significantly YoY.
  • Job seekers, particularly those with bachelor’s degrees or higher, feel the job market is very competitive.
  • The staffing industry is expected to contract slightly this year, but reaching candidates may remain challenging. Leaning into candidate preferences will be critical for employers.

Fewer Jobs are Available

Job openings fell to 8.8 million on the last day of March, down from a high of 12.2 million in March 2022. Job openings are currently at a three-year low, with only 1.32 jobs open for every unemployed person. Unemployment increased slightly from 3.8 to 3.9% in April, marking the 27th month below 4%. 

While unemployment remains low, it is important to consider that 4.5 million people work part-time for economic reasons. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these workers prefer full-time work but have either had their hours reduced or have been unable to find full-time work.

According to the latest Employment Situation released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. added 175,000 new jobs in April. The chart below shows gains and losses by industry over the last month. Healthcare continues to drive the most job gains, with 56,200 jobs added in April – a large majority within ambulatory care and home health. 

Chart Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


Falling Quits, Layoffs, and Hires

The layoff rate fell in March to 1%, close to a historic low. Over the same period, layoff discussions on Glassdoor decreased by 9% month over month, and employee confidence bounced back to 47.8%, a high since June 2023. 

At the same time, quits also fell to 2.1%, the lowest point since August 2020. With fewer quits and fewer jobs opened, the number of hires fell to 5.5 million, down by 455,000 over the year, according to the latest JOLTS report.  

A decrease in hiring, while layoffs remain low, indicates that many employers have shifted their focus from aggressively hiring to retention – some industry nuances to consider, like healthcare, where job postings remain elevated, and skills shortages persist. Manufacturing, an industry plagued with retirements and an aging workforce, is another industry where the demand for talent remains elevated. 


Falling Pay Incentive to Change Jobs

The year-over-year change in annual pay for workers who switched jobs, as reported by ADP, fell to 9.3% in April. This is down from 13.1% in April 2023. Given the fewer jobs to choose from and the less pay incentive to switch jobs, workers may be less motivated to seek new employment. The chart below shows how pay incentives by worker mobility have changed over time. 

Chart Source: ADP Pay Insights


Candidates Feel the Market is Competitive

With fewer jobs opening and fewer workers quitting, candidates can feel the competitiveness of the job market. 

Criteria recently surveyed job seekers and found that job seekers, particularly seekers with bachelor’s degrees or higher, found the job market to be the most competitive. The chart below breaks down Critieria’s 2024 Candidate Experience Report responses. 

Chart Source: Critieria

The report also conveyed that perceived competition was most significant among younger workers (34 and under), who are perhaps still building the skill sets needed for available jobs. When broken down by industry, competition for tech ranked the highest, with 53% of seekers saying the competition for jobs is too high. 


Looking Ahead

It’s impossible to predict exactly what is next for the labor market, but looking at the staffing sector is something to watch. Temporary help employment is often seen as an early indicator for the labor market and the economy. In April, the BLS reported temp help employment fell by 16,400 for this sector – more on staffing in the industry spotlight below. 


Industry Spotlight: Staffing

SIA (Staffing Industry Analysts) publishes projections twice a year for staffing market size and revenue growth. As of April 2024, forecasts have been revised to reflect 2023 actuals. Initially, 2023 was projected to be at 201.7 billion, but it came in at 191.1 billion to close the year. This year's projections were then adjusted to 184.6 billion, equating to a 3% decline YoY for the industry. 

The ASA (American Staffing Association) also recently held a State of the Industry webinar in April and provided predictions on how staffing demand will evolve. The chart below was shared on the webinar and looks at the relationship between staffing penetration and labor churn. As labor churn moves closer to the trendline, staffing demand is expected to follow. 

Chart Source: ASA State of the Industry Webinar, April 2024

Much of the demand expected for staffing will be driven by three primary tailwinds, according to the ASA State of the Industry webinar

  • A reduction in workers 55 and older in specific sectors, like manufacturing and education
  • A reduction in migration – which heavily impacts sectors like agriculture
  • An increase in new business starts and a preference to lean into gig work 

Another key factor driving staffing demand in the future is the skills gap facing specific sectors. Sectors that require intensive skills, such as healthcare, tech, finance, education, and manufacturing, will be most impacted. 

Although these tailwinds will aid in future staffing growth, sales difficulty remains historically high. This information comes from an SIA pulse survey conducted in January, which was presented during an SIA webinar in April.

Many staffing agencies are converting recruiters into more sales-driven roles to help drive sales and retain staff. The latest Staffing Hub 2024 State of Staffing Report shows similar challenges, as survey respondents ranked client acquisition and sales as a top challenge. 

Staffing Hub surveyed recruiters to gauge the difficulty of various recruiting tasks. The top three challenges identified were getting candidates to respond, finding qualified candidates, and ensuring candidates show up. Additionally, recruiters were asked to pinpoint the most effective sources for finding new candidates, with results in the chart below.

Chart Source: Staffing Hub: State of Staffing Report, April 2024

Many staffing agencies are using platforms or apps to make hiring easier for candidates. In the 2024 Temporary Staffing Platform Update Report, SIA reported that 12 of the 15 largest staffing firms use a platform to aid hiring. Also, Staffing Hub found that 35% of survey respondents from the State of the Staffing Industry survey use a mobile app. The survey found that the most commonly used apps are in-house or proprietary systems.

In a recent webinar, SIA highlighted travel nurse data indicating a rising preference for using an app or platform exclusively to communicate with staffing agencies – this trend is on the rise for millennials and Gen Z nurses. As skills gaps persist and the supply and demand gap continues to widen for certain sectors, staffing agencies must lean into candidate preferences to best reach candidates. 

Lastly, to reach candidates, it’s crucial to address what is most important to job seekers. Employbridge, in partnership with ASA, recently released early insights into the Voice of the American Workforce annual report for 2024. The report asked candidates what the most important factor is when looking for a new job. The chart below shows insights into how hourly workers responded. 

Chart Source: Employbridge, Voice of the American Workforce, April 2024 

While pay remains the top priority, factors such as advancement opportunities and job satisfaction are steadily gaining significance. This shift indicates that workers are no longer satisfied with merely having a job – they are actively seeking more fulfilling opportunities.



In conclusion, the staffing market is projected to experience a slight contraction in size in 2024. However, there will be a noticeable increase in demand in sectors such as manufacturing, where skill shortages remain a persistent issue. The recruiting industry continues to increase in complexity, and recruiting candidates remains challenging. Staffing companies should evolve practices and lean into candidate preferences to stay competitive. 

To learn more about how Recruitics supports staffing clients in today’s labor market conditions, connect with us today. We utilize real-time data to pivot, innovate, and collaborate, aiming to make your approach more precise, intuitive, and efficient.

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