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FAST FACTS: Latest Statistics on Employment and Economic Trends

A healthier job market helped spark the biggest gain in Americans’ confidence in almost a year, raising prospects for the economy at the start of fourth quarter.

For accounting and finance professionals, the current trends point to tightening professional labor markets with extremely low unemployment rates (less than 1% in some professional categories) and increasing compensation.

There were 4.8 million job openings on the last business day of August, up from 4.6 million in July and the highest level of job openings since January 2001, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The unemployment rate continued to decline, and more importantly, it was for the right reason. If both the unemployment and labor-force participation rates fall concurrently, it means the drop in unemployment was the result of job seekers dropping out of the talent pool and simply giving up.

The good news – that’s not what’s happening. In September, the unemployment rate fell by 0.2% to 5.9%. That’s the lowest since July 2008. The labor participation rate also dipped but by a smaller amount: 0.1% to 62.7%. Essentially, there’s a very positive reason for a part of the drop in the unemployment rate – more people are finding jobs!

Unemployment Rate (Seasonally Adjusted)
Unemployment Rate (Seasonally Adjusted)

Hiring is picking up. Century Group is currently engaged on 498 searches and projects for accounting, finance, internal audit and tax professionals. The volume of search activity is equivalent to the pre-recessionary years of 2006 and 2007.

Perhaps more importantly for the accounting and finance professionals that we work with daily, the unemployment rate for individuals with a bachelors degree or higher dropped to 2.9% in September.

 Unemployment Rate – Bachelors Degree or Higher
Unemployment Rate – Bachelors Degree or Higher

At the same time, Professional and Business Services led the way in job increases, posting 81,000 job gains in September.

Job Gains

Job Gains

Temp Penetration Rate

Likewise, the temp penetration rate climbed 0.01% to a new all-time high of 2.10%, as temporary help services added 19,700 jobs in August. That’s important, because temporary employment is seen as a leading indicator for employment, with temporary staffing trends leading employment by six months during periods of economic growth (and three months when the economy is emerging from a recession)

Temporary Help Services Jobs (000s), seasonally adjusted)

Demand for temporary workers grew 8.6% through September 2014 and is expected to increase 8.7% in Q4 2014 which would be the 19th consecutive quarter of increases (year-to-year).

Year-Over-Year Growth in Temp Jobs, seasonally adjusted

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Staffing Industry Analysts and American Staffing Association

Stacey MonyeiFAST FACTS: Latest Statistics on Employment and Economic Trends