March 2021 Jobs Report & Industry Update

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email

Human Capital Solutions, Inc. (HCS) www.humancs.com is a Retained Executive Search firm focused in Healthcare, Life Sciences, the Industrials, and Technology. Visit our LinkedIn Company Page to learn more about HCS and receive weekly updates.

HCS has created the Prosperity at Work proposition which focuses on creating prosperous relationships between companies and their employees (associates). HCS assists companies in improving bottom line profitability by efficiently planning, organizing and implementing optimized, practical and value-added business solutions.


Economics & Job Creation
“The Employment Situation — February 2021”

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 379,000 in February, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 6.2 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The labor market continued to reflect the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In February, most of the job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, with smaller gains in temporary help services, health care and social assistance, retail trade, and manufacturing. Employment declined in state and local government education, construction, and mining.

Effect of Severe Winter Storms on Employment Estimates

Severe winter weather occurred in much of the country during the February reference periods for the establishment and household surveys. For information on how weather can affect data on employment and hours, see Question 8 in the Frequently Asked Questions section of this news release.

This news release presents statistics from two monthly surveys. The household survey measures labor force status, including unemployment, by demographic characteristics. The establishment survey measures nonfarm employment, hours, and earnings by industry. For more information about the concepts and statistical methodology used in these two surveys, see the Technical Note.

Household Survey Data

Both the unemployment rate, at 6.2 percent, and the number of unemployed persons, at 10.0 million, changed little in February. Although both measures are much lower than their April 2020 highs, they remain well above their pre-pandemic levels in February 2020 (3.5 percent and 5.7 million, respectively). (See table A-1. See the box note at the end of this news release for more information about how the household survey and its measures were affected by the coronavirus pandemic.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for Asians declined to 5.1 percent in February. The rates for adult men (6.0 percent), adult women (5.9 percent), teenagers (13.9 percent), Whites (5.6 percent), Blacks (9.9 percent), and Hispanics (8.5 percent) showed little or no change. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)

Among the unemployed, the number of persons on temporary layoff fell by 517,000 in February to 2.2 million. This measure is 1.5 million higher than the level a year earlier but is down considerably from the recent high of 18.0 million in April 2020. The number of permanent job losers, at 3.5 million, was essentially unchanged in February but is 2.2 million higher than a year earlier. (See table A-11.)

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more), at 4.1 million, changed little over the month but is up by 3.0 million over the year. In February, these long-term unemployed accounted for 41.5 percent of the total unemployed. The number of persons jobless less than 5 weeks, at 2.2 million, also changed little over the month. (See table A-12.)

The labor force participation rate remained at 61.4 percent in February. This measure is 1.9 percentage points lower than the value a year earlier. The employment-population ratio, at 57.6 percent, changed little over the month but is down by 3.5 percentage points over the year. (See table A-1.)

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons, at 6.1 million, changed little in February but is up by 1.7 million over the year. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs. (See table A-8.)

In February, the number of persons not in the labor force who currently want a job was 6.9 million, little changed over the month but up by 1.9 million over the year. These individuals were not counted as unemployed because they were not actively looking for work during the last 4 weeks or were unavailable to take a job. (See table A-1.)

Among those not in the labor force who currently want a job, the number of persons marginally attached to the labor force, at 1.9 million, was essentially unchanged in February but is up by 453,000 over the year. These individuals wanted and were available for work and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months but had not looked for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. The number of discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached who believed that no jobs were available for them, was 522,000 in February, little changed from the previous month but up by 121,000 over the year. (See Summary table A.)

Household Survey Supplemental Data

In February, 22.7 percent of employed persons teleworked because of the coronavirus pandemic, down from 23.2 percent in January. These data refer to employed persons who teleworked or worked at home for pay at some point in the last 4 weeks specifically because of the pandemic.

In February, 13.3 million persons reported that they had been unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic–that is, they did not work at all or worked fewer hours at some point in the last 4 weeks due to the pandemic. This measure is down from 14.8 million in January. Among those who reported in February that they were unable to work because of pandemic-related closures or lost business, 10.5 percent received at least some pay from their employer for the hours not worked, down from 12.7 percent in January.

Among those not in the labor force in February, 4.2 million persons were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic. This measure is down from 4.7 million in January. (To be counted as unemployed, by definition, individuals must be either actively looking for work or on temporary layoff.)

These supplemental data come from questions added to the household survey beginning in May 2020 to help gauge the effects of the pandemic on the labor market. The data are not seasonally adjusted. Tables with estimates from the supplemental questions for all months are available online.
View full article at US BLS

Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 379,000 in February but is down by 9.5 million, or 6.2 percent, from its pre-pandemic level in February 2020. In February of this year, most of the job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, with smaller gains in temporary help services, health care and social assistance, retail trade, and manufacturing. Employment declined in state and local government education, construction, and mining. (See table B-1. See the box note at the end of this news release for more information about how the establishment survey and its measures were affected by the coronavirus pandemic.)

In February, employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 355,000, as pandemic-related restrictions eased in some parts of the country. About four-fifths of the increase was in food services and drinking places (+286,000). Employment also rose in accommodation (+36,000) and in amusements, gambling, and recreation (+33,000). Employment in leisure and hospitality is down over the year by 3.5 million, or 20.4 percent.

Within professional and business services, temporary help services added 53,000 jobs in February but is down by 175,000 from a year ago.

Employment in health care and social assistance increased by 46,000 in February. Health care employment was little changed over the month (+20,000), following a large decline in the prior month (-85,000). In February, job gains in ambulatory health care services (+29,000) were partially offset by losses in nursing care facilities (-12,000). Employment in social assistance rose by 26,000, mostly in individual and family services (+18,000). Employment in health care and social assistance is down by 909,000 over the year.

Retail trade added 41,000 jobs in February. Job growth was widespread in the industry, with the largest gains occurring in general merchandise stores (+14,000), health and personal care stores (+12,000), and food and beverage stores (+10,000). These gains were partially offset by a loss in clothing and clothing accessories stores (-20,000). Following steep job losses in March and April of 2020 (-2.4 million jobs over the 2 months combined), retail trade has added 2.0 million jobs from May through February.

Manufacturing employment increased by 21,000 over the month, led by a gain in transportation equipment (+10,000). Employment in manufacturing is down by 561,000 over the year.

In February, employment declined in local government education (-37,000) and state government education (-32,000). For both industries, February losses partially offset gains in January. Pandemic-related employment declines in 2020 distorted the normal seasonal buildup and layoff patterns in the education sector, making it more challenging to discern the current employment trends in these industries.

Employment in construction fell by 61,000 in February, largely reflecting declines in nonresidential specialty trade contractors (-37,000) and heavy and civil engineering construction (-21,000). Severe winter weather across much of the country may have held down employment in construction. Employment in the industry is 308,000 below its level a year earlier.

Mining shed 8,000 jobs in February, with losses occurring in support activities for mining (-6,000) and in oil and gas extraction (-2,000). Mining has lost 153,000 jobs since an employment peak in January 2019, though nearly two-thirds of the loss has occurred over the past year.

In February, employment changed little in other major industries, including wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, and other services.

In February, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 7 cents to $30.01. Average hourly earnings for private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees, at $25.19, changed little (+4 cents). The large employment fluctuations over the past year–especially in industries with lower-paid workers– complicate the analysis of recent trends in average hourly earnings. (See tables B-3 and B-8.)

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls declined by 0.3 hour to 34.6 hours in February. In manufacturing, the workweek declined by 0.2 hour to 40.2 hours, and overtime declined by 0.1 hour to 3.1 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls declined by 0.4 hour to 34.0 hours. (See tables B-2 and B-7.)

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for December was revised down by 79,000, from -227,000 to -306,000, and the change for January was revised up by 117,000, from +49,000 to +166,000. With these revisions, employment in December and January combined was 38,000 higher than previously reported. (Monthly revisions result from additional reports received from businesses and government agencies since the last published estimates and from the recalculation of seasonal factors.)
The Employment Situation for March is scheduled to be released on Friday, April 2, 2021, at 8:30 a.m. (ET).
View full article at US BLS

Back to Top


Life Sciences
“New research highlights impact of the digital divide”

The coronavirus pandemic has drawn new attention to the digital divide, as the need for online schooling and working from home has disproportionately hurt those without computer equipment and skills.

Research by Paul A. Pavlou, dean of the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston, found that people with basic Information Technology (IT) skills — including the ability to use email, copy and paste files and work with an Excel spreadsheet — are more likely to be employed, even in jobs that aren’t explicitly tied to those skills.

People with more advanced IT skills generally earned higher salaries, the researchers found. The work is described in Information Systems Research.

“Unemployment and low wages remain pressing societal challenges in the wake of increased automation, more so for traditionally-disadvantaged groups in the labor market, such as women, minorities, and the elderly,” the researchers wrote. “However, workers who possess relevant IT skills might have an edge in an increasingly digital economy.”

The findings, Pavlou said, reinforce the need for robust public policy to ensure people, especially women, older workers and others who are more likely to face employment discrimination, have the basic IT skills needed for the modern working world, since few companies provide on-the-job training in those skills.

“Very few people can get these skills from their employer. Workers are expected to obtain these IT skills themselves, in order to get a job in the first place” he said. “And the less-privileged population they are, the harder time they have obtaining these skills that require computer equipment and internet access.”

That leaves many workers, especially from under-represented populations in the labor market, unable to even apply for work, as more job applications — and now, interviews — are handled online.

In addition to Pavlou, co-authors on the paper include Hilal Atasoy of Rutgers University and Rajiv Banker from Temple University.

The analysis was conducted using two datasets from the Turkish Statistical Institute, and Pavlou said the findings are especially relevant for the developing world, where people are less likely to have IT skills and access to computer equipment than they are in the United States.

But the pandemic has laid bare unequal access to technology in the United States, too, as schools and universities struggle to provide students with computers, internet hotspots and other equipment to continue their educations online.

The work thus has implications for marginalized workers in the United States and other developed countries, Pavlou said. That includes women and older workers, who are more likely to opt out of the labor force if they cannot work from home — jobs that are more likely to require at least basic tech savvy.

“The digital divide is a major societal problem,” Pavlou said. “I think the pandemic will make it even more pronounced. People with basic IT skills will have access to more opportunities, and it is imperative for educational institutions to provide these IT skills, especially in traditionally-disadvantaged populations.”
View full article at Science Daily

Back to Top


Technology
“New generation of tiny, agile drones introduced”

If you’ve ever swatted a mosquito away from your face, only to have it return again (and again and again), you know that insects can be remarkably acrobatic and resilient in flight. Those traits help them navigate the aerial world, with all of its wind gusts, obstacles, and general uncertainty. Such traits are also hard to build into flying robots, but MIT Assistant Professor Kevin Yufeng Chen has built a system that approaches insects’ agility.

Chen, a member of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Research Laboratory of Electronics, has developed insect-sized drones with unprecedented dexterity and resilience. The aerial robots are powered by a new class of soft actuator, which allows them to withstand the physical travails of real-world flight. Chen hopes the robots could one day aid humans by pollinating crops or performing machinery inspections in cramped spaces.

Chen’s work appears this month in the journal IEEE Transactions on Robotics. His co-authors include MIT PhD student Zhijian Ren, Harvard University PhD student Siyi Xu, and City University of Hong Kong roboticist Pakpong Chirarattananon.

Typically, drones require wide open spaces because they’re neither nimble enough to navigate confined spaces nor robust enough to withstand collisions in a crowd. “If we look at most drones today, they’re usually quite big,” says Chen. “Most of their applications involve flying outdoors. The question is: Can you create insect-scale robots that can move around in very complex, cluttered spaces?”

According to Chen, “The challenge of building small aerial robots is immense.” Pint-sized drones require a fundamentally different construction from larger ones. Large drones are usually powered by motors, but motors lose efficiency as you shrink them. So, Chen says, for insect-like robots “you need to look for alternatives.”

The principal alternative until now has been employing a small, rigid actuator built from piezoelectric ceramic materials. While piezoelectric ceramics allowed the first generation of tiny robots to take flight, they’re quite fragile. And that’s a problem when you’re building a robot to mimic an insect — foraging bumblebees endure a collision about once every second.

Chen designed a more resilient tiny drone using soft actuators instead of hard, fragile ones. The soft actuators are made of thin rubber cylinders coated in carbon nanotubes. When voltage is applied to the carbon nanotubes, they produce an electrostatic force that squeezes and elongates the rubber cylinder. Repeated elongation and contraction causes the drone’s wings to beat — fast.

Chen’s actuators can flap nearly 500 times per second, giving the drone insect-like resilience. “You can hit it when it’s flying, and it can recover,” says Chen. “It can also do aggressive maneuvers like somersaults in the air.” And it weighs in at just 0.6 grams, approximately the mass of a large bumble bee. The drone looks a bit like a tiny cassette tape with wings, though Chen is working on a new prototype shaped like a dragonfly.

Building insect-like robots can provide a window into the biology and physics of insect flight, a longstanding avenue of inquiry for researchers. Chen’s work addresses these questions through a kind of reverse engineering. “If you want to learn how insects fly, it is very instructive to build a scale robot model,” he says. “You can perturb a few things and see how it affects the kinematics or how the fluid forces change. That will help you understand how those things fly.” But Chen aims to do more than add to entomology textbooks. His drones can also be useful in industry and agriculture.

Chen says his mini-aerialists could navigate complex machinery to ensure safety and functionality. “Think about the inspection of a turbine engine. You’d want a drone to move around [an enclosed space] with a small camera to check for cracks on the turbine plates.”

Other potential applications include artificial pollination of crops or completing search-and-rescue missions following a disaster. “All those things can be very challenging for existing large-scale robots,” says Chen. Sometimes, bigger isn’t better.
View full article at Science Daily

Back to Top


Healthcare
“Color blindness-correcting contact lenses”

Imagine seeing the world in muted shades — gray sky, gray grass. Some people with color blindness see everything this way, though most can’t see specific colors. Tinted glasses can help, but they can’t be used to correct blurry vision. And dyed contact lenses currently in development for the condition are potentially harmful and unstable. Now, in ACS Nano, researchers report infusing contact lenses with gold nanoparticles to create a safer way to see colors.

Some daily activities, such as determining if a banana is ripe, selecting matching clothes or stopping at a red light, can be difficult for those with color blindness. Most people with this genetic disorder have trouble discriminating red and green shades, and red-tinted glasses can make those colors more prominent and easier to see. However, these lenses are bulky and the lens material cannot be made to fix vision problems. Thus, researchers have shifted to the development of special tinted contact lenses. Although the prototype hot-pink dyed lenses improved red-green color perception in clinical trials, they leached dye, which led to concerns about their safety. Gold nanocomposites are nontoxic and have been used for centuries to produce “cranberry glass” because of the way they scatter light. So, Ahmed Salih, Haider Butt and colleagues wanted to see whether incorporating gold nanoparticles into contact lens material instead of dye could improve red-green contrast safely and effectively.

To make the contact lenses, the researchers evenly mixed gold nanoparticles into a hydrogel polymer, producing rose-tinted gels that filtered light within 520-580 nm, the wavelengths where red and green overlap. The most effective contact lenses were those with 40 nm-wide gold nanoparticles, because in tests, these particles did not clump or filter more color than necessary. In addition, these lenses had water-retention properties similar to those of commercial ones and were not toxic to cells growing in petri dishes in the lab. Finally, the researchers directly compared their new material to two commercially available pairs of tinted glasses, and their previously developed hot-pink dyed contact lens. The gold nanocomposite lenses were more selective in the wavelengths they blocked than the glasses. The new lenses matched the wavelength range of the dyed contact lenses, suggesting the gold nanocomposite ones would be suitable for people with red-green color issues without the potential safety concerns. The researchers say that the next step is to conduct clinical trials with human patients to assess comfort.
View full article at Science Daily

Back to Top


The Industrials
“Coal and COVID-19: How the pandemic is accelerating the end of fossil power generation”

COVID-19 has not only caused a temporary drop in global CO2 emissions, it has also reduced the share of power generated by burning coal — a trend that could in fact outlast the pandemic. This is the key result of a new study by a team of economists based in Potsdam and Berlin that looked at COVID-19’s impact on the energy system and demand for electricity. Their findings show that the pandemic, while putting a terrible toll on people’s lives and the economy, has also opened a window of opportunity to make this current trend of decreasing coal use irreversible: Supported by the right climate policy measures, power sector emissions could decline more rapidly than previously thought.

“Coal has been hit harder by the Corona crisis than other power sources — and the reason is simple,” explains lead author Christoph Bertram from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). “If demand for electricity drops, coal plants are usually switched off first. This is because the process of burning fuels constantly runs up costs. The plant operators have to pay for each single ton of coal. In contrast, renewable power sources such as wind and solar plants, once built, have significantly lower running costs — and keep on operating even if the demand is reduced.”

This way, fossil fuels were partly squeezed out of the electricity generation mix in 2020 and global CO2 emissions from the power sector decreased around 7%. By looking at India, the USA, and European countries alone a more dramatic picture emerges: In these key markets, where monthly electricity demand declined by up to 20% compared to 2019, the monthly CO2 emissions decreased by up to 50%.

The researchers estimate that it’s likely that emissions will not reach the all-time high of 2018 anymore. “Due to the ongoing crisis, we expect that 2021 electricity demand will be at about 2019’s levels, which, given ongoing investments into low-carbon generation means lower fossil generation than in that year,” says co-author Gunnar Luderer from PIK. “As long as this clean electricity generation growth exceeds increases in electricity demand, CO2 emissions from the power sector will decline. Only if we saw unusually high demand for electricity along with surprisingly few additions of renewable power plants from 2022-2024 and beyond, fossil fuel generation would rebound to pre-pandemic levels.”

While the power sector has seen a dynamic transformation process even before the advent of COVID-19, the pandemic has weakened the market position of coal-fired power generation and illustrated its vulnerability.

“Our research shows that investing in fossil-fueled power is not only environmentally irresponsible — it is economically very risky,” says co-author Ottmar Edenhofer, Director of both PIK and the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change. “In the end, it will certainly take carbon pricing to cut emissions at the required pace and stabilize our Climate. Yet the impacts of the Corona crisis on the power generation sector have put political leaders in a unique position: Along with additional policies such as eliminating subsidies for fossil fuels and increasing investments in wind and solar power, it is now easier than ever before to put an end to high-carbon electricity.”
View full article at Science Daily

Back to Top

Sign Up

Sign up to receive our monthly jobs reports.