The Best Job Market in History – If You Want One
There’s never been a better job market than right now – at least if you’re looking for a job. A new report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveals that there are many more U.S. job openings right now than people looking for work and that gap is widening. At the end of March there were 11.5 million job openings and 6 million unemployed people seeking jobs. That ratio of job seekers to job openings is the lowest it’s been since the BLS began reporting the data 20 years ago.
In 2000, there was about 1 person for every job opening. Then came the Great Recession of 2008 when the ratio peaked at about 6.5 job seekers for every opening. It spiked again during the pandemic but it’s plummeted ever since, falling in March to 0.5.
Some economists are describing the phenomenon as an inverted labor market; others simply say the market is upside down. However it’s described, the most recent BLS data means there’s only one person seeking work for every two jobs open in the U.S. (or half a person for every job).
The latest BLS data is good news if you want a job, bad news if you’re hiring. The job market today presents unprecedented opportunity for job seekers, but for many reasons millions of people aren’t applying for openings. A Washington Post story described a “mismatch between the jobs available and what workers want,” noting that:
Some people want to work remotely forever
Others want to spend more time with family
Many want greater flexibility or a more meaningful career path
Resignations are the highest on record
Millions more Baby Boomers retired recently than expected
Gartner, the highly respected research and consulting firm, characterized the labor market challenge as “The Great Reflection” highlighting that:
People have developed a new sense of awareness and worth for themselves and the world around them. This is prompting them to demand more personal value and purpose from both life and work.
Monetary compensation is important, but it turns out that people want acknowledgment, growth opportunities and to feel valued, trusted, and empowered.
For employers, hiring in this market is equally unprecedented. A recent McKinsey & Company commentary offered these recommendations for CEOs:
Focus on skills, not degrees. Expanding recruitment efforts to people who have work experience but don't have degrees could open significant opportunities for job seekers, while broadening the talent pipeline for companies.
Accelerate workforce training programs. Business leaders should explore more ways to offer their employees education outside the workplace, or as part of onboarding or continuous learning.
Showcase manufacturing as a source of high-growth jobs. Manufacturing is one of the industries most likely to see growth. Employers can help break down perceived barriers to manufacturing employment by considering candidates from other sectors who can build on their existing experience and communicating which skills may be transferrable.
Other employee recruitment and retention strategies recommended for employers include:
Hire on attitude, not skills
Keep an eye on compensation offered by your competitors
Don’t outsource recruiting
Provide an affordable, quality childcare benefit
Offer hybrid work schedules
Source from traditionally overlooked talent pools
Even if you’re a Millennial or Gen Xer, let alone a Baby Boomer like me, you’ve never before experienced a job market like this. Throughout my 45-year career there has nearly always been more job seekers than openings and the competition to secure a new position was consistently challenging. No one really knows how long this upside-down labor market will last, but if you’re looking for a new job now’s the time!