The data is clear: We are in a hot job market. The Help Wanted signs are up all over to the chagrin of many employers. According to the US Department of Labor, U.S. employers added 678,000 jobs in February and the unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent in the second month of 2022. It was the 10th straight month of gains, with the economy picking up a record 7 million jobs over the past year.
Allen, a Vice President at a Brooklyn bank and a veteran bank executive, can feel the difference. At a recent interview with a competing bank, the interviewer plainly asked “What are you looking to earn?” That is a dramatic change from the past when he was told what the salary is and “it was take it or leave it.” At this interview, there was a give and take, he recounted and in the end he got pretty much what he wanted.
Perhaps that change defines the current market. With employers finding it hard to fill positions, prospective employees can write their own ticket, experts say. People like Allen do not have to settle but can shop around until they find the job they want. Evelyn used to have to commute over an hour to her job but suddenly finds that there are options closer to her home and the possibility of spending more time with her children.
What is interesting is that the Allen and Evelyn experiences are not relegated to one sector. “We saw broad-based gains in every sector — in trucking, warehousing, construction, leisure and hospitality, even in nursing homes,” Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said in an interview. “Ninety percent of the jobs lost in March and April of 2020 have been recovered.”
As you might have guessed, the biggest job gains were in health care with home health care leading the way. This would seem to indicate that people who have experience in health care can shop around and find jobs that fit their lifestyle, either it is the type of institution or location.
If it seems that the employee has the upper hand in just health care, think again. The classified ads perhaps tell the story. There are lines like: “will negotiate excellent terms” or “compensation package for a good career.” If ever there was a time where a prospective job seeker can negotiate good terms, this is the time. Yes, employers are desperate to find “good” people. That is why a good number of the ads say “5-8 years experience.”
There is a noticeable “awakening” of the job market now that it seems that the Omicron variant is ebbing. Many people who were not looking for a job during the Covid era are now exploring career options. According to various reports, many people retire early or simp[ly got used to the idea of not working.
For better-off Americans, the pandemic economy created some of the strongest incentives to retire in modern history, with generous federal stimulus, incredible market gains, skyrocketing home values and health concerns drawing many Americans into early retirement.
This trend has opened many new opportunities in jobs that may not have been available pre-pandemic. It means that it is a good time to go after jobs that seemed out of reach almost a year or two ago.
All this is extremely frustrating to employers who are having a hard time filling jobs at any level. Leo has been looking for two workers in his small optical factory. One of his key workers was with him for 27 years but decided to retire during Covid. Leo is not alone As customer demand roared back to life, employers faced acute hiring challenges as workers trickled back into the labor force. The increased competition for workers has made it exceptionally difficult to both hire and retain employees.
Leo confessed that he has had a good response to his ads but most lacked the experience he needed. It seems that he, like so many employers, are just not willing to go through the arduous task of training. This does not bode well for the inexperienced and untrained but is an extremely good development for those who have specific skills. In Brooklyn, there were no less than 6 ads for lab technicians.
Employers will have to bite the bullet and deal with qualified workers who simply lack the necessary skills. Skills? Here is what one professional HR agency defined as lacking skills:: Critical thinking/problem solving. A whopping 60 percent of hiring managers believe candidates lack critical thinking and problem solving skills. Another defined skill was attention to detail which came in at 56%. These were followed by communication, leadership, and teamwork. And we haven’t even touched upon specific trained skills. But somehow if employers wish to fill critical jobs, they will have to find a way to help prospects hone in on some of these skills.