That there is even the slightest doubt that we’re in the best job market in history is, frankly, ridiculous. Yet there remain those who still have their doubts and then carry that negative view into their job searches. They create a self-fulfilling prophecy, and we all know where that leads.
As an independent career coach for 24 years, I can state unequivocally that people with positive attitudes and objective views always find more opportunities for better jobs with better employers, take less time to get through the hiring process, stay longer with their new employers and experience more upward growth. So maybe an objective look at the market will help.
Since 1939, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has published monthly job creation data; since 1948, tables on employment; since 2000, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS).
BLS data tell stories, and in my view, they’ve never had a better story to tell than right now: We’re in the best job market in history. It’s a thing of beauty. Sure, we’ve had great job creation years: 1946, 1972, 1977, 1984, 1994 (that whole decade, actually), and 2014. But none like 2021.
Through November, our economy has created 6,108,000 jobs. The previous record for a full year was 1946 at 4,267,000, which is easy to explain: three million Americans came home from war and filled the factories and offices. But that was a 12-month number; we’re not done with 2021 yet. Unless the delta and omicron variants drive us back to 2020, we could see an unheard of number of 7,000,000 new jobs (still slightly short of where we were pre-pandemic, but what a story!)
Along with all that, the unemployment rate, 6.7 percent a year ago, is at 4.2 percent and headed
further south—an astonishing recovery in such a short time, even more formidable because it looks sustainable. In that one short year, 3.851 million people left the unemployment rolls. Digging into the BLS tables, every single number (persons unemployed, persons employed, participation rate, etc.) and each age bracket, gender, educational attainment level and ethnicity dramatically improved. No one was left off this ride.
On a macro level, while the civilian noninstitutional population grew by 1.823 million, the civilian labor force grew by 1.516 million, a much higher proportion than normal. That, plus the reduction in unemployed persons, accounts for the bulge of 5.366 million employed people compared to one year ago. Even the number of people not in the labor force, a number which naturally increases every year due to our aging population living longer, has shrunk by more than half a million people.
So there’s all that—and it should be enough. But the star of the show— by far—is JOLTS. Every measurement —open jobs, open jobs rate, hires rate, voluntary quits rate and layoffs—is literally off the charts. Open jobs climbed over the 11 million mark for the second time in history (July 2021); the 4.4 percent hires rate means that nearly seven million people got hired in October alone. The voluntary quits rate, the best sign of optimism, shows that 4.5 million people voluntarily quit their jobs. And dramatically, the layoffs rate is down 88 percent.
On top of all this, wages are rising. According to BLS, average hourly wages rose in November for the eighth consecutive month, reflecting employers’ needs to fill jobs. Employers, we see, are now competing for workers, not just on the hourly wage side, but also in higher-level salaried jobs. Anecdotally, I can tell you that in my practice I’ve been dealing with clients all year long who have been fielding multiple lucrative job offers.
Now here’s the biggest eye opener of all. Sorting through all that data, we arrive at a stunning discovery: there are eight open jobs for every five job seekers in America. For perspective, in the Great
Recession of 2008-09, there were 6.5 job seekers for every job. The pendulum has swung—and it’s not yet reached its full arc.
What’s at work here? The infrastructure bill will create 650,000 jobs (says the government, but I’d bet on more) and the ramp-up has begun. Rising wages means more spending on essentials, which means the economy grows from the bottom up. Investment in innovation always has, and will continue to, create jobs, not to mention products, businesses, and whole industries. And when foreign currencies have favorable exchange rates against the dollar (like now), it becomes easier to export American goods. That buffers us against the temporary glitches of inflation and supply chain snags.
Simply, this is a powerful rising tide—and the only ships rising tides don’t lift are those that have holes in their bows. It couldn’t be clearer that this is the best time we’ve seen to be sea-ready.
Because this is, indeed, the best job market in history. Period.
Career Coach Eli Amdur provides top-notch one-on-one coaching in job search, résumés, interviewing, career planning and executive development. Reach him at [email protected] or 201-357-5844.