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Relief in the Labor Market?

Latest government jobs report shows hiring gains, as other data reveals easing of resignations
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
BLS data
(Image source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 2023)

Despite persistent inflation and an uncertain macroeconomic outlook, the U.S. jobs market remains relatively robust, or at least more stable than this time last year.

The latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveals that total non-farm worker rolls swelled by a better-than-expected 339,000 in May, while wage growth moderated for the month, up 0.3%. The unemployment rate remains historically low but ticked up slightly, from 3.4% to 3.7% during that time frame. BLS reported that the labor force participation rate held steady at 62.6% in May.

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Within the retail trade sector, the labor situation is markedly different than in 2022. Retail employers added 11,600 payroll positions last month, up from 10,000 in April and a reverse from the 51,400 job losses in May 2022. More granular BLS data shows that job counts edged up a bit in food and beverage stores in May, with 3.246 million held jobs on a seasonally-adjusted basis, versus 3.241 million in April. In a related industry, 24,000 jobs were added in transportation and warehousing last month.

Also this week, Axios reporter Courtenay Brown declared "The Great Resignation" essentially over. According to Brown, the pandemic-era trend of workers leaving for higher paying or more fulfilling jobs has eased.

She cited other BLS data released this week showing that voluntary quits came in at 2.4% during April, akin to the rates in 2019. “Even leisure and hospitality workers, once the poster children for the quits boom, are returning to pre-pandemic norms. The quits rate in this segment hit 4.6% in April — very close to the January 2020 rate of 4.4% and well below the peak 5.8% recorded last summer,” Brown wrote, adding, “Americans who did job hop over the past few years have seen heftier pay gains. But that phenomenon, too, is fading — another sign of some heat coming off the labor market.

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