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  • Writer's pictureCaroline

U.S. Labor Market Update | April 2024

Updated: 7 days ago

In April 2024, the U.S. labor market experienced a slowdown in job and wage growth, with a slight uptick in unemployment. While many industries saw some wage gains, average wage growth slowed to its lowest rate in nearly three years, dipping below 4% year-over-year growth for the first time since June 2021. With industry-specific insights like retail resume-to-posting ratios jumping to nearly 8:1, April’s labor market saw some intriguing changes that we are eager to share with you.  

Key Takeaways: 

  • Unemployment Rate: Increased slightly from 3.8% to 3.9%.

  • Job Growth: Saw a decrease with 175,000 jobs added, down from 303,000 in March.

  • Industry Movements: Significant jumps in resume-to-posting ratios were noted across nearly all categories.

Unemployment rose to 3.9% in April from 3.8% in March of this year. Several factors may have contributed to this increase despite ongoing signs of economic recovery. One significant influence could be the expanding labor supply, with job creation not matching this influx. Despite the softer job data for April, indicators such as initial claims for unemployment insurance suggest that there isn't a significant weakening in the labor market currently. Strategists anticipate that this data will help Federal Reserve officials regain confidence that inflation will eventually return to its 2% target, although it may require patience.

Year over year, the unemployment rate from April has risen in every category, most significantly in blue-collar sectors such as construction and maintenance. Overall, while there are signs of improvement in the labor market for these sectors, the recovery remains uneven, with ongoing challenges related to staffing, technology adoption, and changing consumer preferences. Businesses are adapting their strategies to meet evolving market demands while addressing workforce retention issues and fair treatment. 

April saw a modest increase of 175,000 jobs, a significant decrease from March (303,000), marking the slowest growth in employment in six months and falling far below market expectations. This resulted in a slight uptick in the unemployment rate from 3.8% to 3.9%. The low job growth in April 2024 could be influenced by a combination of factors:

  1. Economic Cooling: After a period of rapid expansion and pandemic-era injection of capital, many global economies have experienced phases of cooling where growth slows down. This can lead to reduced hiring as businesses adjust to a more sustainable pace of growth.

  2. Policy Impacts: Changes in monetary policy, such as interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve, have led to tighter credit conditions, affecting businesses' ability to expand and hire.

  3. Labor Market Constraints: With unemployment typically lower towards the end of an economic expansion cycle, businesses might struggle to find suitable candidates, resulting in slower job growth.

  4. Global Economic Conditions: External shocks, such as international trade tensions or economic slowdowns in major economies, can also impact domestic job growth.

  5. Sector-Specific Downturns: Certain sectors, such as SaaS technology and have experienced downturns due to industry-specific challenges, impacting overall job numbers.

As of April 2024, wage growth in the United States has slowed across various sectors. The general wage growth rate has cooled to around 3.1% year-over-year, a modest 0.2% from March, aligning with the levels seen before the pandemic in 2019. This represents a slowdown from higher growth rates observed in the past few years, including a peak in early 2022​.

Specifically for the blue-collar and service industries, the trends vary:

  • In the food service sector, wage growth has decreased significantly from its post-pandemic peak. Year-over-year wage growth was only 2.4% in March 2024, a substantial drop from a peak of 15.4% in January 2022. This decline is indicative of a broader cooling trend across similar sectors.

  • The retail sector has also seen a similar slowdown, with wage growth decreasing to 2.3% from a previous high of 11.7%.

  • Customer service wages, meanwhile, have been impacted by broader economic trends and technological advancements in automation and AI, affecting the overall demand for traditional customer service roles.         

Industry Specific Insights



In April 2024, the retail industry labor market experienced moderate growth with an increase of 20,000 jobs. Despite these gains, the retail industry faces several challenges. The labor market's expansion has been somewhat tempered by economic uncertainties, inflation pressures, and high competition for consumer loyalty. Retailers focus on enhancing customer loyalty programs and leveraging technology like AI to improve operational efficiency and customer experience. With a significant decrease in net postings and a jump in the searching workforce, the retail resume-to-posting ratio rose significantly to nearly 8 resumes for every posting. Even with the increase in available candidates, many retail employers are still struggling with having enough qualified applicants to meet required staffing levels. 

Food Service 

The food service industry in April 2024 is experiencing notable growth, with sales expected to reach $1 trillion for the first time. This growth is accompanied by a significant expansion in workforce demands, with an anticipated addition of 200,000 jobs by the end of the year. However, the sector faces challenges such as high labor and food costs, with many operators reporting non-profitability in the previous year. Net postings decreased again in April, and similarly to retail, the searching workforce increased.

Customer Service

The customer service industry in April 2024 is experiencing significant changes, particularly with the integration of technology to enhance service delivery. Despite a projected decline in employment for customer service representatives by 5% from 2022 to 2032, there remains a consistent demand for new hires, mainly due to turnover. Annually, about 373,400 openings are expected, primarily to replace workers moving to other roles or retiring.

Key Takeaways For April

As April 2024 closes, the U.S. labor market reflects the complexities of a shifting economy. While certain sectors show resilience and growth, overall, a slight slowing in job creation and wage increases underscores the need for businesses to be prepared to adapt to these evolving economic conditions. Employers and workers alike face the challenge of navigating this landscape, with strategic adjustments and innovations becoming increasingly vital for long-term sustainability and growth. A global skills gap remains a top challenge and threat to business across all sectors for the balance of the decade.  As we continue to monitor these monthly trends, the labor market's response to policy changes, global economic shifts, and technological advancements will undoubtedly shape the future trajectory of employment across various industries.


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