‘I am losing my mind’: Behind the big job numbers, Americans are struggling to find work

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‘I am losing my mind’: Behind the big job numbers, Americans are struggling to find work:-Kyle Clark’s look for a new job has been going on since May, when he quit his job as a university research administrator.

The 30-year-old first looked for work as a technical editor, a skill he learned in college. Then he used his skills as an administrator to apply for jobs in insurance and project management. He finally put his resume in for a job at a big-box store nearby, but was told the store wasn’t hiring.

‘I am losing my mind’: Behind the big job numbers, Americans are struggling to find work

After looking for work in the Portland, Oregon, area and failing, Clark moved in with his parents in Tennessee but still couldn’t find a job. He is now going to Chicago to see if he can get lucky there.

So far, there have been about 250 applications. 14 correct answers. 12 talks. Not one job offer.

When Clark says, “I am losing my mind,” he says that he has a four-year college degree and seven years of work experience. “I’m just worn out…” I only want to get a job. Things that bother me are that I want to work and have skills. I’d like to. Allow me to.”

Why is it so hard to find a job right now?

In January, the country added 353,000 jobs, which is a huge number. Even though the job numbers are very high, the job market has become less friendly to people looking for work compared to a year ago.

Companies are less likely to hire people because pay and interest rates are high. Workers have to send in more applications because there are fewer job openings and more people applying for them. There are also a lot of workers who are scared about being fired.

Brad Hershbein, senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo, Michigan, says, “Hiring is slowing down everywhere.”

‘We already have over 100 applications’

Cheyenne Barton, 26, from Kissimmee, Florida, finished in December with two degrees: one in biomedical sciences and the other in computer technology and software development. This is the kind of practical experience that employers have been looking for.

She first looked for work in software development, but now she wants “really any job” that will let her use her degrees.

Barton has put in for about 1,000 jobs but hasn’t been interviewed yet.

“Companies say they want recent college graduates who are willing to learn and can do so quickly,” she says. “But when you apply for the job, they tell you, ‘Oh, we already have over 100 applications from people who are better qualified.'”

It’s not much better for many senior-level job hunters. At age 56, Jennifer Gobora from Philadelphia co-owned and helped run a marketing company for 20 years. During the pandemic, the family business had to close. Gobora has been applying for hundreds of marketing jobs in the Philadelphia area over the last eight months since getting a certificate toward an MBA.

About one company was interested in her every week, and she had about 20 interviews, she says. But the good replies have slowed down over the past few months and now only come in twice a month.

She wants to know if companies are posting jobs internally instead of filling them just to follow company policy.

She says, “I keep telling myself I’d be a catch.”

'I am losing my mind': Behind the big job numbers, Americans are struggling to find work

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Is job growth slowing?

The monthly jobs report doesn’t make it clear that hiring is slowing down. In addition to the 333,000 jobs added in December and the 353,000 jobs added in January, the average number of jobs added in 2023 was a strong 255,000, down from 377,000 the previous year. A poll of experts by Bloomberg says that the Labor Department will likely report on Friday that the economy added 200,000 jobs in February.

But a lot of the jobs that were created in 2022 and 2023 were “catch-up” hires after 22 million jobs were lost because of COVID and Americans spent their stimulus checks and cash they got while staying home. Businesses hired more people because of the buying binges. The hiring to make up for lost time is over, and most of the gains have been used up.

At the same time, companies are being hurt by high interest rates and rapidly rising wages. At the same time, customer demand is falling and fears of a recession are still swirling, though they are lessening. Also, this is an election year for president, which can change economic and business policies.

Hershbein says, “There’s a lot of doubt.” Because of this, many businesses are saying, “We’re just going to wait,” instead of hiring more people.

How common is getting laid off?

The jobs report shows that there has been strong net employment growth. However, Hershbein says that this is mostly due to fewer cuts.

Companies like Amazon, Google, Citigroup, and UPS have recently said they are letting go of thousands of workers, but the number of initial jobless claims, which is a good indicator of job cuts, is still at an all-time low. Firms have been hesitant to let workers go since they had to deal with COVID-related labor shortages.

Economists say that increases in job wins caused by fewer people quitting can only last for a certain amount of time. To keep wage growth going, hiring needs to speed up.

How many job postings are there in the US?

The number of job openings dropped from 12 million in March 2022 to 8.9 million in January, according to the Labor Department on Wednesday. This was slightly less than the previous month. The number of new jobs fell below the level seen before COVID, to 5.7 million. The fewest people quitting their jobs since January 2021—3.4 million—shows that people either don’t have another job lined up or aren’t sure they can get one.

The National Federation of Independent Business says that in the same month, a measure of small businesses’ plans to hire fell to its lowest level since the height of the pandemic in 2020.

LaSalle Network’s CEO, Tom Gimbel, asks, “If you’re not sure if business will be there in six months, is it better to have your current employees work harder than to spend money to hire more people and then fire them in six months?”

‘I need to see the demand before I hire more’

In 2024, Scott Ford, president of California Builder Services, hired four new people. This year, he only wants to add two more workers to his team of seventeen. High interest rates have made people less likely to build homes, so sales at the Fresno-area company that helps developers set up homeowner groups have been flat, says Ford.

In the meantime, wages have gone up 20% in the last two years because of a lack of workers and very high insurance costs. Because of this, his earning margins have shrunk.

He says, “Because the real estate market is so slow right now, I need to see how much demand there is before I hire more cheap staff.”

It’s likely that Ford will hire both if the Federal Reserve cuts interest rates later this year as planned. This is because it will help the home market and make it cheaper for him to borrow money to pay the workers until they start working. But by then, he might not be able to keep up with the growing demand from builders.

Why are companies so slow to hire?

“A lot of other businesses are also upset about the slowing economy and big pay raises in the last few years,” says Christi Patrick, who owns or works with 44 Express Employment Professionals offices in Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

In some cases, especially for less skilled workers, companies won’t pay market rates. In other cases, they pay high wages but want workers to have all ten of the skills they’re looking for instead of nine, according to Patrick.

She says, “Everyone is scared right now.” “They can see the softening coming.”

She says that one reason employers are making requirements stricter is to cut down on turnover. This was a big problem during the Great Resignation after COVID, when tens of millions of workers quit their jobs in search of better pay in the world’s hottest job market ever.

Companies also don’t want to hire younger people who want to work from home, so they make their employees work in the office at least part-time, says Patrick.

Because of this, the job market is even more stuck, which makes it harder to hire people. So far this year, Patrick’s offices have hired 10,386 people, which is less than the 14,084 people they hired at the same time last year.

Are more layoffs coming in 2024?

Chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics Ian Shepherdson says that even though companies are cutting back on hiring, they are sending out more warnings about closing plants and letting a lot of people go. He thinks that by spring and summer, the average monthly job growth will slow to between 50,000 and 100,000. At this point, he thinks that the Fed will have to quickly cut interest rates to stop unemployment from rising and a recession from happening.

The constant news about layoffs is making people feel less safe in their current jobs. A recent poll by Glassdoor, a job search and employee review site, found that only 45.1% of employees are optimistic about their company’s future. This is the lowest percentage of employees who have ever been positive about their company’s future since 2016.

Aaron Terrazas, Glassdoor’s chief economist, says that people who aren’t as confident are actively seeking new jobs, while people who are confident are focusing on their present jobs.

He says, “Everyone is responding to the fear.”

Bottom line: LinkedIn, an employment-based social media site, says that more people are applying for fewer open jobs. The Labor Department says that in January, there were 1.4 job openings for every jobless person. This is less than the two jobs that were available a year ago. LinkedIn says that because of this change, job seekers in the U.S. sent out 21% more applications last year than they did in 2022.

The ‘purple-striped unicorn’

Molly Dotson, 33, is a sales account executive in San Diego. She says it took her six months of applying for about 200 jobs before she found one. Dontson used to work for a new tech company that hired people quickly and then fired them over the course of a year. In August, she was let go in the third wave.

Dotson says that many of the people who were let go in earlier waves quickly found new jobs.

“I was shocked to find that there were not only very few actual job openings but also a market that was insanely competitive,” says Dotson. She said, “There was a purple-striped unicorn for every opening.” This means that hiring managers thought there was a better person with the right experience for each job.

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