While governments typically aim for a robust jobs market, too hot of a labor force could yield significant risks, thus forcing changes for stocks to buy. Indeed, American investors may want to consider adjusting their strategies to accommodate future changes in the economy.
On paper, circumstances appear quite swell. According to CNN, the U.S. economy added 311,000 jobs in February, outpacing expectations. So far, so good. However, we’re presently dealing with elevated inflation. Prior to the jobs report, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell left open the door for higher and quicker interest rate hikes. With the latest data, the central bank may have no choice but to go aggressively hawkish. If so, the Fed might find it extremely difficult to engineer a soft landing; that is, control inflation without sparking a recession. In turn, higher rates may reduce employment stats, leading to discombobulated workers. With the stage set for drastic changes, these are the stocks to buy on the latest jobs report.
Robert Half (RHI)
On the surface level, mentioning staffing agency Robert Half (NYSE:RHI) as one of the stocks to buy because of a robust labor market doesn’t seem to make much sense. After all, with the job market so tight, employees can quickly find opportunities elsewhere. So, taking on the services of what effectively amounts to a middleman seems counterproductive.
To be sure, RHI stock hasn’t really responded well recently. Last week, shares stumbled over 5%. And while RHI is up for the year, it’s down nearly 29% in the trailing year. Nevertheless, with the Fed likely to hike benchmark rates to combat inflation, the economy can slip into recession. Indeed, the mass layoffs we’ve seen since 2022 have now impacted other sectors beyond technology. Financially as well, RHI offers an intriguing opportunity for stocks to buy. For starters, the company enjoys stability in the balance sheet. Moreover, it’s an operational powerhouse. As an example, its three-year revenue growth rate stands at 8.3%, above nearly 68% of the industry. Its net margin is 9.09%, outpacing 71% of its peers. Therefore, it’s well worth looking into.
Kelly Services (KELYA)
Another staffing agency, Kelly Services (NASDAQ:KELYA) might seem an odd inclusion for stocks to buy on a strong jobs report. Under ordinary circumstances, I’d agree wholeheartedly. Why bother dealing with a middleman entity when you can easily secure a new opportunity in a tight labor market? However, my concern centers on sustainability. In other words, I just don’t think the employment market will be this robust moving forward.
So yes, while KELYA appears ugly in terms of chart performance, it could make up ground. In particular, Kelly Services doesn’t just focus on white-collar office jobs. Rather, it also facilitates connections for people seeking jobs in warehouse operations. Again, with mass layoffs rising, people might start getting desperate and taking whatever they can. In this scenario, Kelly Services makes sense.
Also, the company offers some enticing fiscal attributes. Perhaps most notably, KELYA pings as undervalued. Currently, the market prices KELYA at a forward multiple of 10.69. As a discount to earnings, Kelly Services ranks better than 70.19% of the field.
For those that want to take an extreme risk with their stocks to buy, Upwork (NASDAQ:UPWK) could be quite intriguing. During the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, many white-collar employers shifted labor to remote operations. However, a growing number of companies – with Covid-19 fading – have recalled their employees back to the office. The invariable conflict may present expansionary opportunities for the gig economy.
To be sure, the gig economy – or the segment dealing with independent contractors (freelancers) – has always been an attractive concept. But now that a majority of white-collar workers got a taste of the gig lifestyle, they may want in full-time. If so, Upwork could benefit as a direct facilitator of freelance opportunities.
In full disclosure, Upwork carries significant risks. Frankly, its balance sheet features dubious stats. As well, the enterprise is deeply unprofitable despite posting a very robust three-year revenue growth rate of 20.1%. That said, Wall Street analysts peg UPWK as a consensus strong buy. Also, their average price target stands at $18.22, implying almost 72% upside potential.
Mentioning U-Haul (NYSE:UHAL) might seem an incredibly strange idea for stocks to buy on the latest jobs report. After all, with the labor market booming, presumably, no need for moving out of town exists. Sure enough, last Friday when we saw the jobs report, UHAL declined by over 3% of equity value.
Nevertheless, UHAL gained nearly 2% since the Jan. opener. And in the trailing year, it’s up slightly over 4%. Fundamentally, one possible reason for the bullishness may center on anticipated migration trends. In particular, if the Fed fails to engineer a soft landing, a recession will likely materialize. Under such circumstances, it may be better for workers to move from high-cost metropolitan areas to lower-cost regions. Additionally, U-Haul enjoys some attractive financial metrics. Operationally, the company’s three-year revenue growth rate stands at 15%, outpacing 82.28% of its peers. Also, its free cash flow (FCF) growth rate during the same period pings at 40.3%, above 80.72% of the industry.
Financially, the market prices UHAL at 7.14 times its operating cash flow. In contrast, the sector median value is 11.17 times, making UHAL undervalued and thus one of the stocks to buy.
Dollar Tree (DLTR)
As mentioned earlier, on the surface, mentioning Dollar Tree (NASDAQ:DLTR) as one of the stocks to buy during a period of robust labor activity seems bizarre. With people enjoying gainful employment, they can easily afford to go shopping at a proper grocery store. Heck, they might even skip cooking for themselves and go out and order in. However, the prospect of higher interest rates suggests that the jobs data may eventually hit a wall. Because the Fed’s main motivation focuses on controlling inflation, the employment sector may incur secondary importance. Put another way, some workers may really be pawns in the Fed’s high-stakes chess game to destroy inflation.
If so, people will need access to vital consumer goods at the lowest price possible. Invariably, this will likely benefit discount dollar stores like Dollar Tree. To be fair, those bidding up DLTR will face risks. Frankly, the company’s balance sheet could be better. Nevertheless, Dollar Tree’s solid operational stats (particularly revenue and net margin) should make DLTR one of the stocks to buy.
Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL)
At a cursory level, Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) appears a risky name for stocks to buy following a strong jobs report. In fairness, it is. For example, during the past 365 days, the Class C GOOG stock gave up more than 30% of its equity value. Still reeling from the shocks of 2022, GOOG desperately needs a positive catalyst to spark sustainable momentum.
However, that catalyst may come in the form of a reverse of labor market gains. Let’s assume the Fed goes super-hawkish with its monetary policy. Subsequently, then, rising borrowing costs should hurt demand across the board, leading to mass layoffs. And we’re not just talking about some sectors being involved but possibly the majority. Where will axed worker bees turn to? Whether it’s searching for a new opportunity or looking for ways to get an edge (such as shoring up a resume), people will turn to Google. Over time, the influx of volume should boost digital advertising revenue, making GOOG one of the intriguing stocks to buy.
As a consumer tech giant tied to multiple areas, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) makes for one of the best stocks to buy. And that’s almost irrespective of context. However, under the scenario of a determined Fed ready to kill inflation, MSFT should command significant attention among market participants. With rising borrowing costs leading to job losses, Microsoft may be the ideal investment.
How so? Simply, Microsoft owns LinkedIn. And you can almost take it to the bank that when layoffs increase in scope and scale, many will turn to the website. Personally, I’ve seen many of my LinkedIn contacts detail their labor market struggles in the hopes of finding new pastures. Some become quite successful in their pursuits. Besides, the base subscription to LinkedIn is free. So, you might as well take a shot. Finally, Microsoft enjoys very attractive financial metrics. From strong revenue to cash flow to profit margins, MSFT is stacked. To boot, it also benefits from a stable balance sheet. Therefore, it’s one of the stocks to buy.
On the date of publication, Josh Enomoto did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.