April Market Updates

Over the past few months, our team at NW Recruiting Partners has interviewed around 300 candidates for various job openings. Throughout this busy time, we’ve been having in-depth conversations with candidates and clients alike, getting to know more about what concerns them and what excites them.

Our observations of the current job market, along with these conversations, have helped us focus on a handful of topics that are the most relevant to our clients. Despite a few bumps in the road, this month has been largely a story of optimism and progress! If you’re looking for guidance to drive your focus in the weeks ahead, here are four trends that we’re keeping an eye on right now.

The Economy Just Keeps Getting Stronger

The March jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was, in the words of the analysts at Axios, “as good as it gets.” Employers not only added 303,000 jobs in March, but the revised job figures for the past two months were also revised up, assuring wary employers and employees alike that the job growth is real and steady, not shaky or fleeting.

As job openings and labor supply increase, the tension between job seekers and employers is shifting back to a healthy balance. There’s less need for employers to scramble to fill a role, and less likelihood of employees leaving on a whim (or taking a poor-fit job out of desperation). That sense of equilibrium is good news for all of us.

Small Business Owners’ Confidence Grows, Despite Challenges

Mirroring the overall good news for the economy, we’re seeing more confidence from small business owners. According to the US Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Index for Q1 2024, small business owners’ confidence in the US economy rose to 62.3, up from 61.3 in Q4 2023. 32% believe the economy is in good health overall (up seven points from the previous quarter), and 38% said their local economy is in good health, up eight percentage points. 65% of small businesses also reported that their overall health is good, with 67% adding that they are comfortable with their current cash flow.

This comes despite a few indicators in the survey that small business owners aren’t quite living a stress-free life just yet. 52% say that inflation remains their top concern, while 60% worry about cybersecurity and 58% are concerned about supply chain breakdowns.

The fact that small business confidence is ticking up even while these challenges are on their minds is an indicator of cautious optimism. We’re seeing more businesses getting “back on their feet” after a few challenging years, and they’re more able to start thinking long-term when immediate, emergency pressures are relieved. It may not be a good time to take big risks just yet, but we foresee positive results for those who continue with a moderate, thoughtful approach to financial decision-making.

Workers Are Taking Longer to Find Jobs

The ZipRecruiter Survey of New Hires for Q1 2024 reports an intriguing trend: fewer job-seekers are finding their roles quickly. Just 46% of new hires say they found their jobs in under a month, which is a significant downturn from the 60% who said the same in the previous quarter. Also down: signing bonuses, down to 23% from 29% in the previous quarter.

At the same time, however, 46% of new hires say they were recruited into their new jobs (up from 34%), and 24% received a counter-offer from their previous employers (up from 21%). Taken together, these numbers paint a picture of a more cautious and thoughtful job market, one where companies have the luxury of taking their time to find the right fit for a given role. It’s still one, however, where top talent is highly valued and competed over, as the rise in counteroffers and direct recruiting indicates. Companies looking to secure the highest level of talent may have to increase their employee value propositions and their recruiting strategies – including partnering with expert recruiting firms – to successfully hire those sought-after candidates.

CFOs Add Their Voices of Optimism

Even financial executives are improving their economic outlook! On a scale of 0 to 100, CFOs surveyed by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond rated their optimism as 61, up from 58 last quarter. That marks the highest confidence level in nearly three years, since Q2 2021. They also rated the probability of negative economic growth at just 10%, down 31% from two years ago. It’s a strong signal that positive economic feelings are present throughout the economic hierarchy, from small businesses to high-level CFOs, and that should have a ripple effect for everyone.

The Outlook This Month

Optimism remains “cautious” rather than “unbridled,” but it’s certainly a more positive outlook than we’ve seen in the past. We’re still recommending a focus on stability, long-term planning, and resilience. There are continuous pressures to deal with, from the labor market to price increases, but the intensity is receding, giving more businesses (and individuals) the space they need to regroup, re-strategize, and recharge. Keep your talent strategy focused on aligning with your overall goals, and start thinking about the long game again, and you’ll be in good shape.