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More jobs than job seekers bodes well for U.S. labor force


Monday, February 8, 2016, 6:00 PM

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Although stock portfolios may be looking bleak with the sudden fall in the market indices, employment prospects for job seekers have never looked better.

I don’t have a crystal ball, but there are some strong indicators that 2016 has much to offer in terms of achieving our career aspirations.

Currently there are more jobs available than job seekers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the current unemployment rate is trending downward, a positive sign for all us — it was 4.9% in January, down from 5% the previous month.

In some parts of our country, we have unemployment rates as low as 2%. New York City’s unemployment rate, as of November 2015, was hovering at 4.8%. Outside of the oil and gas industry and those who service that industry, every head of human resources and recruiting I speak with is hiring for 2016.

This is not to say that there won’t be some disappointments. There are casualties occurring right out of the gate in 2016. Some employers, such as Macy’s, have recently announced workforce reductions.

However, to be fair, many of these employers have done a significant amount of hiring since our 2009 recession and have over-hired relative to the demand for their products and services.

Some employers also will eliminate duplication of roles as a result of mergers and acquisitions. Others, while reducing their workforce in one area of their company, are simultaneously hiring in other parts of their business.

If you do find your job on the chopping block, chances are high that you’ll be re-employed within six months or less.

America has a talent crunch. The demand for talent exceeds the number of available job seekers.

Unlike past periods, where we saw great needs for workers in a particular industry, such as the Y2K days when every employer needed an IT professional, today’s job market is hot across industries. Even the federal government is growing from an employment opportunity perspective.

What can we expect in 2016 from the job market? Unemployment will remain low. We can expect new job creation to continue — perhaps not at the same pace as 2015 — but at a pace strong enough to keep unemployment at 5% or lower.

This is the year that we can officially declare the job market to be a candidate-driven market. Employers are working hard to attract the top talent they need as they no longer have enough qualified candidates to fill their job openings. Experienced workers will be among the biggest winners this year.

Up until now, our job market has been fueled by entry-level jobs. We’ve gone from a high of almost seven unemployed individuals per job opening in 2009 to less than 1.4 unemployed individuals per job opening in December 2015.

Although many of these jobs have been low-paying positions, they have fueled a robust candidate-driven market. They also have created a demand for mid-career professionals and specialists. Those with more than a decade of work experience will finally see the strength of our current employment market.

Job opportunities abound in 2016

We are already seeing increased demand from employers to recruit experienced workers. Job candidates with specialized skills and mid-career management and leadership experience are in much greater demand.

This is good news for mid-career workers and professionals, many of whom have been underemployed and working below their experience level since the great recession.

This also bodes well for those who have been working part-time jobs but want full-time jobs. All of this increased demand for talent is motivating employers to offer higher salaries and wages than in prior years.

The 2016 job market will favor the job candidate and frustrate the employer

Employers want what does not exist: candidates with current, relevant work experience to fill every one of their openings.

Don’t get me wrong, near-perfect candidates do exist and we find our fair share of them every day. There’s just not enough to go around.

When an employer does find that “purple squirrel” of a candidate, they are most likely gainfully employed and not willing to resign their current role for equivalent pay, benefits and employment conditions elsewhere.

This reality will continue to put pressure on employers to enhance their job offers as well as make decisive and timely job offers. Otherwise, they will risk losing job candidates to other employers.

As the available supply of these near-perfect candidates dwindles, employers are left with no choice but to switch their recruiting and hiring tactics. Many employers will add recruiting and selection practices that hire based on potential, “can do” versus “have done.”

These tactics will open up more job opportunities to candidates who have transferrable skills from other industries and occupations, are working several part-time jobs but want one full-time job, are looking to rejoin the workforce after sitting on the sidelines, and to those who have the ability, skills and desire to do the job but lack the relevant work experiences.

Opportunities are plentiful for all job seekers, both entry levels and the mid-career, experienced worker. Employers will work even harder and more creatively to attract, screen and hire the talent they need. The wage inflation that everyone has been asking about will finally happen as the year unfolds.

Dr. Steven Lindner is the executive partner of The WorkPlace Group, a leading “think-tank” provider of recruitment services assisting companies ranging from small, fast growing businesses to multinational Fortune 500 companies.

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