Okay. We’ve just finished the strongest two years of job creation in history—back-to-back, no less. That, combined with all other labor statistics—low unemployment rate, high rates of hires and voluntary quits, and low layoffs—confirms it. As a result, 2023 has been given all it needs for a good start. Yet, due to the fact that more big changes and events are continuing concurrently than ever before, there is reason to keep a closer eye and a broader view on things other than traditional labor measurements. In short, Mother Earth and her inhabitants have never gone through extensive change at such a pace, at least since the last Ice Age, when we entered the Holocene epoch 12,000 years ago, and we need to be aware of what’s happening.
Here’s what I think will, to some degree, influence where we’re going this year and what the drivers will be. These aren’t projections or predictions; I learned long ago that I’m neither skilled enough to make projections nor foolish enough to make predictions. But there are things I regularly watch closely or notice when they emerge. Some are recognizably connected to the job market, others are a stretch, but they could all influence our job market—for good or for bad.
Here’s my watchlist for 2023: things I fear and things I hope for in the job market.
1. Continuing urbanization. Urban centers now are home to 83 percent of Americans; that’s been on the rise for half a century, and we’re not done. There are massive possibilities here. On the plus side: concentration of available labor talent, R&D, higher education, supply chain control, advanced manufacturing, etc. Potential problems: increase in communicable diseases, competition for living space, overload of public services.
2. Politicization of things that shouldn’t be political, like public health and public education. Political cycles always agitate the job market. The problem is that these cycles are now 365 days long and they undermine our faith in—and our commitment to—public institutions.
3. Tech layoffs. According to layoffs.fyi, 1,018 tech companies laid off 153,678 workers in 2022, in mostly small to midsize firms. Watch out. The big boys are cranking up.
4. Crypto crash. Cryptocurrency’s global value of $894 billion (as of Jan. 10) is hardly 0.9 percent of
global GDP, not enough to worry about. But last year it exceeded $3.2 trillion—and that was plenty to worry about. This kind of volatility, especially unregulated, can cause disturbances.
5. Decentralization of social media. With Twitter exploding in all directions, and more platforms likely to follow while new ones emerge, social media is headed for more chaos, even anarchy.
6. Artificial intelligence. AI is here forever. The question is, how do we handle it? Being interviewed by a bot is annoying, but hardly consequential. I suggest you sit down to watch “2001: A Space Odyssey”—the most prescient movie ever made—and pay particular attention to the tipping point, the conversation between Dave and HAL9000. Then we can talk about AI.
7. Degrees or certificates? There is a pronounced shift in emphasis, led by big tech, from academic degrees to professional certificates. Strong arguments can be made for both, but I’d remind you to keep #3 (above) in mind.
8. Pass the chips, please. The CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 is huge, and will create thousands of jobs in expansive manufacturing facilities in Arizona, Ohio and New York. Long needed: more than 1.5 trillion chips are manufactured worldwide each year, and America’s share has sunk to 12 percent, and even lower in advanced microprocessors. This changes things.
9. Boom! Finally. This is a triple whammy. When Baby Boomers first came of retirement age in 2011, they baffled actuaries and economists by remaining in the workforce longer than expected. But the pandemic was the last straw, and the Boomer exodus was on big time. As a result, succession plans were stretched; millions of jobs opened and created a labor shortage, which pushed salaries upward, which fueled inflation. This is still in progress.
10. “Near-shoring.” We’re fed up relying on Chinese factories to make things and a slow costly global supply chain to get them here. Mexico is a much better idea, with two giant advantages. Goods will be steadily available and cheaper, and this will take pressure off the migrant crisis at the same time.
11. Disintegration of interpersonal processes. The compound-complex intertwinement of pandemics has turned work into a different cultural experience—perhaps even an a-cultural experience. Is there such a thing as the workplace anymore?
That’s what’s on my mind, dear readers. What’s on yours?
Career coach Eli Amdur provides one-on-one coaching in job search, résumés, and interviewing.
Reach him at [email protected] or (201) 357-5844.