The Conference Board uses cookies to improve our website, enhance your experience, and deliver relevant messages and offers about our products. Detailed information on the use of cookies on this site is provided in our cookie policy. For more information on how The Conference Board collects and uses personal data, please visit our privacy policy. By continuing to use this Site or by clicking "OK", you consent to the use of cookies. 
Share
  • LINKEDIN
  • EMAIL
  • TWITTER
  • FACEBOOK
Share
Press Release
Strong job gains put the labor market on solid footing as COVID-19 impact starts to materialize
06 March, 2020


The US economy added 273,000 jobs in February and the unemployment rate fell slightly to 3.5 percent. Previous months’ employment numbers were revised up significantly, reflecting a strong labor market heading into a period of increased uncertainty around the coronavirus outbreak.

Some of the strongest employment gains were seen in education and health services, leisure and hospitality, construction, and professional and business services—all sectors that could see impacts from a COVID-19 outbreak in the months ahead. While manufacturing employment rebounded, job losses in wholesale and retail trade and transportation and warehousing place these industries in a tenuous position heading into the outbreak.

While it’s too early to see the recent spread of the novel coronavirus to parts of the US reflected in the employment data, consumers could temporarily pull back on spending on restaurants, travel, and public events in the coming months. As revenues decline, we anticipate companies will first freeze hiring or reduce employee hours before resorting to layoffs.

Amid historically tight labor markets, and subsequent challenges around recruitment and retention, we expect employers will be especially hesitant to terminate skilled or recently trained workers. In contrast, lower skilled workers in high turnover industries most affected by COVID-19—such as food services—may be more vulnerable to job losses.

In addition, manufacturing, which was beginning to trend positively after facing slowing global economic growth and trade tensions, may face additional downside risks from disruptions to global supply chains that could negatively impact hours worked and job growth.

In the coming months, while slowing demand associated with the COVID-19 outbreak could temporarily relax further tightening of the labor market, falling revenues and labor hoarding could further squeeze corporate profits. For now, February’s strong job gains put the labor market on solid footing as the economic impact of the unexpected viral outbreak begins to materialize.

About The Conference Board

The Conference Board is the member-driven think tank that delivers trusted insights for what’s ahead. Founded in 1916, we are a non-partisan, not-for-profit entity holding 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt status in the United States. www.conference-board.org.

For further information contact:

Carol Courter
1 212 339 0232
carol.courter@conference-board.org

Joseph DiBlasi
781.308.7935
Joseph.DiBlasi@conference-board.org

ECONOMIC INDICATORS

Leading Economic Index for:

  • Australia 0.3%
  • Brazil 1.1%
  • China 0.7%
  • Euro Area 0.7%
  • France 0.7%
  • Germany 2.3%
  • Global 2.5%
  • India 0.9%
  • Japan 1.2%
  • Korea 1.4%
  • Mexico 0.6%
  • Spain 2.0%
  • U.K. 0.3%
  • U.S. 1.2%
  • International Labor Comparisons:
  • Visit ILC website
  • Productivity:
  • Visit Total Economy Database™ website
  • Global Economic Outlook:
  • Visit Global Economic Outlook website
  • OTHER RELATED CONTENT

    RESEARCH & INSIGHTS

    WEBCASTS

    COUNCILS

    BLOGS

    PRESS RELEASES & IN THE NEWS