This is the stuff on which the American legend is built: vision, perseverance, devotion, energy and power. It is Lewis & Clark setting out to discover the vast unknown territory that was to become the United States. It’s the transcontinental railroad; Longfellow’s The Blacksmith’s Village, Thomas Edison’s Laboratories; and the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Now you can add the US job market of 2021-2022 to this list. Not only did he put on a show of strength never seen before; it has maintained that performance for 20 straight months, as reported Sept. 2 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
By now, you’ve seen every 30-second spot from the news stations on August’s high job creation of 315,000 and the unemployment rate of 3.7%. These are nice numbers, but they don’t tell the whole story. There have been times in the 54 years I’ve been in the workforce and in the 25 years I’ve watched and commented (not to mention coaching people) that those two numbers were good, but the labor market was not. The market is a complex organism and must be understood as such.
To that end, let’s look at two other BLS reports: Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) and Employment Situation. This will help dispel the fallacious argument – already underway from negative commentators who have already dismissed the mountains of positive data to point to one statistic: the unemployment rate rose 0.2% to 3.7%.
Of course, that’s without understanding that the number of people in the civilian labor force jumped by 786,000 (three-quarters of a million newly energized and optimistic job seekers), a number exceeding the 344,000 newly unemployed by a margin significant by 442,000. A parallel but rarely cited statistic is that the number of inactive people fell by 613,000. In an aging population, this number tends to increase – unless, of course, there is a force against it. And here. In fact, there are several.
The most enticing feature of our job market is open jobs. A vacancy is one that an employer would fill immediately if the right candidate presented itself. Considering the total unemployed population at 6.01 million, the number of open jobs – 11.2 million – is breathtaking. In other words, there are roughly two open jobs for every job seeker. Compare that to 2010, coming out of the Great Recession, there were 6.5 job seekers for every job.
Lately, that number of open jobs has hovered around or above 11 million for an astonishing 13 straight months. Moreover, hirings, voluntary departures and turnover rates are all within a hair’s breadth of their historic highs; and the layoff rate is also close to its all-time low.
State News:NJ tops the list of most expensive rental markets, and the reality is worse than the numbers show
All of this means that the market is not only active, it is – in a word – hyperactive. It’s the best time in history to be a job seeker (or changer) – without a doubt. In my humble opinion, the labor market alone is what prevents the entire economy from falling into recession. From one point of view, with two consecutive quarters of GDP contraction, we are at one. In practice, however, many economists will not concede this formality – and the job market is the reason.
Now, if that’s not enough for you, consider the potential fatal blows the labor market has taken in its 20-month marathon: Covid; supply chain disruptions; ongoing climate crisis events; the January 6 Committee hearings; and more stock market turmoil than is good for our digestive health. Add to that inflation; repeated and continued increases in interest rates; the war in Ukraine; monkeypox; and the intensification of medium-term shenanigans that will surely lead to complete turbulence. If you want, you can look up decades of data on medium-term effects. Or you can rely on my many years of observations.
With all of this and through all of this, what has the labor market done? Loop? Collapse? Shrink? Implode? None of these answers. Not even remotely close, as it turns out. The two biggest years of job creation on record were 2021 and – by the time we get to December – 2022.
It’s a bet.
Since 1997, Eli Amdur has been providing one-on-one career and executive coaching, as well as business leadership consulting. For 15 years, he taught graduate leadership courses at FDU. He has written regularly for this publication and others since 2003. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 201-357-5844.