February 24, 2024
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Eleven Things I Watched Closely This Year: A Retrospective

As the American job market roared into 2023, powered by its own brute strength and not on the coattails of the economy writ large, it was evident to me that there were some mighty big forces at work—or at least, being unleashed—that would change the fundamentals of the job market and, most probably, life in general, and not for the short term, either.

So I kicked off the year with my column that appeared here on January 26, “Eleven Potential Job Market Changers in 2023.” I wasn’t making projections; economists and statisticians make those. Nor was I making predictions; fools make those. I was only stating what was keeping me up at night and getting me out of bed in the morning. I know; get a life.

Well, it prodded an unusual number of reader responses, many of which were cautious, some of which were in full agreement, and one of which thought I was off my rocker (his words) and was wasting his precious time. Dontcha know, I just had to email back to thank him for his time in reading and for taking even more of his precious time in writing. That was that.

Once again, I was not making projections or predictions. All I said was that there were things going on that were worth watching. Expectations. And then I made a promise that we’d look at them as we headed into year’s end. So here we go.

  1. Continuing Urbanization. Urban centers were home to 83% of Americans before the pandemic. Then came talk of a mass exodus. While many urbanites traded their $4,500 studio apartments in midtown or the Upper West Side and moved to their new $4,500 one-bedroom digs in tightly wound Hoboken, New Jersey or their three-bedroom starter homes with yards and front walks in Bergen County, they still didn’t leave their urban center, their standard metropolitan statistical areas (SMSA). They just moved around within them. Preliminary estimates? It’s still 83% and will grow. There is still a migration from rural to urban, suburban and exurban America.
  2. Politicization of Things That Shouldn’t Be Political, like public health and public education. Political cycles always agitate the job market. Problem is, these cycles are now 365 days long and with the election of the most radical Speaker of the House in history, things will only be exacerbated.
  3. Tech Layoffs. According to layoffs.fyi, 1,062 tech companies laid off 164,769 workers in 2022, So far this year, it’s 1,089 laying off 246,214.
  4. Crypto Crash. Cryptocurrency’s global value as of October 28 was up 24.55% from a year ago. I blew that one.
  5. Decentralization of Social Media. That was easy. Mr. Musk took care of that all by himself. Granted, the giants are still giants, but new and interesting platforms have proliferated and will spawn new entries into the field.
  6. Artificial Intelligence. AI is here forever, I posited. The question is, how do we handle it? Nothing has gotten more ink or airtime than AI—and that juggernaut won’t be done for a long, long time. That’s because, simply, AI is the greatest change in the history of humankind. No less.
  7. Degrees or Certificates? The National Center for Education Statistics reports that as of 2021, certificates now account for 26% of all sub-master’s post-secondary awards.
  8. Pass the Chips, Please. The CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 is already under way and will grow U.S. global share of chip manufacturing from 12% to 14%. Sound small? That’s 210 billion chips.
  9. Boom! Finally. Baby boomers, who held on longer and retired later than anyone expected, have finally given in (except a few of us). This will make sweeping changes to our workforce demographics, business operating patterns and actuarial calculations of fundamentals like Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid and education.
  10. ‘Near-Shoring.’ Bringing manufacturing back from far-off lands is in full swing. Depending on fickle supply chains is no longer acceptable. There’s more to all this than strictly low prices. But don’t expect a return of all jobs. We’ve got new, nearby partners in Central America; and Mexico just surpassed China as our largest trading partner. It’s about time.
  11. Disintegration of Interpersonal Processes. The compound-complex intertwining 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 I asked in January. Same question today.

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.

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