In the three weeks Marcus Greely has been job searching, he’s submitted 39 job applications, had two initial phone calls with potential employers and several informal networking chats. So far, that’s it.
The recently laid-off tech sector recruiter is focused on more networking, and even more job applications.
“I’m just throwing as many darts at the board as I can,” the 38-year-old Minneapolis, Minn. resident said. “I know I am going to have to apply for a ton of jobs before I find something.”
Is he nervous after the layoff from his senior-level job, a first in his career? A little, he admits. Is he frustrated? Definitely not. Greely said he remains “cautiously optimistic.”
“On average, it’s a good time to be a job seeker,” he said.
The blowout jobs report Friday showed the economy added 517,000 jobs in January, nearly triple the forecasted 187,000 gain. Meanwhile, the amount of job openings in December reached a five-month high, according to data released Wednesday.
“‘I know I am going to have to apply for a ton of jobs before I find something.’”
Two recent surveys also paint a more sanguine view. Nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) said it’s a good time to find a quality job, up from 62% in November, according to Gallup.
Almost half of consumers (48%) say jobs were “plentiful” in January, up two percentage points from December, according to the Conference Board’s latest read on consumer confidence. Slightly fewer people (11.3%) in January said jobs were hard to get, down from 11.9% in December.
This optimism about the labor market might be read as a disconnect given that the Conference Board also noted that consumer confidence slipped in January as people worry about a possible recession. Not to mention the layoffs in the tech sector: 86,000 global technology-sector employees have already been laid off in the first few weeks of 2023.
But the health of the job market is not a “one size fits all” proposition. Job hunters may have to take go on one or two extra interviews as employers take a “more measured” approach to hiring, said Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half International
the global staffing company geared at white-collar work. “But the jobs are still there, and people are still being hired,” he said.
The January jobs report reaffirmed that perspective, McDonald said. “It’s still very much a tight, candidate-driven market.”
“There are different stories for different companies — and different stories for different industries,” Nick Bunker, an economist at Indeed.com, said in an interview with MarketWatch ahead of Friday’s numbers. “But overall, the data shows the U.S. labor market is very strong.”
Taking Friday’s jobs report into account, employers have added an average 356,000 jobs monthly for the past three months in “a juggernaut” of a jobs market, Bunker noted. The jobless rate, at 3.4%, “dropped to a level not seen since before Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon” in 1969.
“The burning question remains: how long can this strength endure?” Bunker added.
The Federal Reserve raised a key interest rate for the eighth consecutive time on Wednesday in its fight against inflation. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said the economy could handle it. “Despite the slowdown in growth, the labor market remains extremely tight,” Powell said.
In the rebound and reshuffle after the pandemic’s darkest days, companies were adding jobs at a fever pitch. After the economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April 2020, employers added quickly workers when the economy opened back up again. In October 2020, it added 719,0000 jobs and in October 2021, it added 781,000 more, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
To compare the current job market to 2020, 2021 and 2022 warps perspective, Bunker said. “Even good times would look horrendous, if you use that baseline. Those are not normal times.”
At Indeed.com, January job postings are down more than 4% month over month. But they are still approximately 40% higher than February 2020, Bunker noted. Some roles were harder hit than others — including HR-related jobs, Bunker said.
When companies slow hiring, they need fewer people to find and manage personnel, he noted. Human-resources job postings at Indeed.com are down 39% on a yearly basis while software development posts are down 43% in the same time.
“It is tough if you’re a talent acquisition professional now,” Greely said. “I’m now competing with the same types of professionals nationwide.”
Overall, American-based employers have announced nearly 103,000 layoffs in January alone, according to the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That’s 440% higher than the amount of layoffs announced one year earlier, the firm noted.
“Marcus Greely is broadening his search beyond the tech sector.”
Big name tech layoffs grab a lot of media attention, Bunker said. The list includes Microsoft
But there are other companies trying to maintain their current workforce and actually add staff he said — they include Walmart
which is raising worker pay, or Chipotle
which plans to add 15,000 new workers. (Walmart cut 200 corporate jobs last August, but the company has about 2.3 million employees worldwide.)
It’s a new year and many companies have just put their approved hiring budgets into action, said Robert Half’s McDonald.
Some of the standard job-searching rules still apply, he noted. People with jobs ought to be discreet if they are hunting, and people out of work should be mindful of their value of networking as they comb through postings, he said. “That puts you in a different realm,” he said.
One wrinkle revolves around remote work. Before the pandemic, the capacity for a flexible schedule was a “nice to have,” McDonald said. Increasingly, many job seekers now regard it as a “must have,” he said. “It’s almost table stakes.”
In Greely’s efforts to distinguish himself, he’s purposely eyeing jobs with hybrid, on-site work expectations. Job listings for purely remote work in the talent-acquisition field can quickly get loaded with hundreds of jobs applications, he said.
As someone who’s tried sifting through more than 500 resumes for any one role, Greely knows how daunting it can be for employers to find the right person and for candidate to shine out.
Another part of Greely’s strategy is broadening his search to recruiting work beyond the tech sector, which now leaves him feeling “a little skittish.” That includes healthcare, manufacturing, banking, retail, construction and more, he said.
Friday’s jobs report gave Greely some reassurance, he said. The strong numbers have also encouraged him to look outside jobs connected to technology and software companies. Meanwhile, he added, there’s also plenty of temporary contract recruiting work to be had.
“I am open to any industry, essentially, at this point.”