February Hiring Dips After a Strong January

Employers beginning to feel the impact of new coronavirus as US job openings and hiring activity declines, according to the iCIMS’ Monthly Hiring Indicator

Following a month of healthy gains to kickstart 2020, US hiring dropped 1.4% after seasonal adjustments and 9.7% before, according to iCIMS’ Monthly Hiring Indicator (MHI). Job openings were also down, posting a 3.1% decrease after seasonal adjustments and 1.5% before.

The MHI is a leading economic indicator published by iCIMS, drawing upon its database of more than 75 million applications, 4 million hires and 3 million jobs each year. New hires translate directly into payroll growth, after netting out departures, layoffs and other separations.

“Concerns about the Covid-19 coronavirus are weighing on employers’ willingness to take on new workers,” said Josh Wright, chief economist at iCIMS. “Although financial markets didn’t start swooning until mid-February, we already see signs of US businesses adapting to supply-chain disruptions. Many employers actually increased their job openings for certain roles, which may also reflect January momentum in the first half of February and perhaps lingering hopes that the health crisis may yet blow over.”

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February 2020 US New Hires and Job Openings Highlights:

  • All sectors that iCIMS tracks saw drops in hiring before seasonal adjustments, which is a complete reversal from last month’s performance.
  • Professional & business services, a bellwether for the larger service-sector economy, saw the sharpest dip in hires, with a non-seasonally adjusted 15% decrease and a seasonally adjusted 5.4% decrease.
  • Manufacturing saw a slight increase in job openings (0.4% before seasonal adjustments and 3.4% after), potentially due to international supply chain disruptions. This growth was led by demand for production support roles, whose duties typically include sanitation and supplying or holding materials – key tasks when hygiene is a concern and factory operations need to be reconfigured.
  • Education & health services struggled to fill front-line roles in February, with a non-seasonally adjusted 9.9% decline in new hires (-2.7% after seasonal adjustments). Notably, registered nurses had nearly 14% fewer hires in February compared to January, and nursing assistants had nearly 19% fewer hires.
  • Although job openings across all sectors were down overall, some sectors saw increases. Education & health services saw a 1.2% uptick before seasonal adjustments and 6.4% after, reflecting increased demand for medical services amid the public health crisis. Retail trade job openings were little changed, perhaps reflecting increased demand for warehousing to support e-commerce.

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