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Jobs plentiful! Pay is up! But, how are you doing?

In the January 10, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, we attempt a reality check — about jobs. Disclosure: I wrote a snarky column to start the New Year. But it’s not as snarky as the news.

Question

Nick, I know the newsletter has been on vacation over the holidays, but have you been reading the jobs news? Am I crazy, or do people really believe unemployment is down and pay is up? That there’s suddenly a job for anyone who wants it? That all our troubles are over? Man, sign me up for a new job for 2X what I was making when I had a job!

Nick’s Reply

jobsDuring my Christmas break, the news kept coming hot and heavy from the U.S. Department of Labor and associated pundits and experts: You should stop complaining about jobs and salaries. Everything’s great!

I’m sure you’re reading the same good news, but all I want to know is, does this reflect your experience with the job market and employers? Or is your head spinning?

Jobs: U.S. Department of Labor News

In the past few days, the DOL reported:

  • “Unemployment rates were significantly lower in November in 18 states and stable in 32 states and the District of Columbia…”
  • “The national unemployment rate was 4.6 percent in November, down from 4.9 percent in October, and 0.4 percentage point lower than in November 2015.”

Fewer people unemployed!

Bloomberg News

Recent Bloomberg reports tell us:

  • “The 4.7 percent jobless rate remains close to a nine-year low, even with a tick up last month.”
  • We’re seeing “enduring wage gains as labor market tightens.”

You’re getting paid more and employers are working harder to hire you!

  • “Worker pay rises at fastest pace since end of last recession.”
  • “Fiscal stimulus would stoke further gains as labor [is] scarce.”
  • “Average hourly earnings jumped by 2.9 percent in the 12 months through December, the most since the last recession ended in June 2009.”
  • “Workers in almost every category, from mining and construction to retail and education, saw paychecks rise from November.”

JPMorgan Economic News

Michael Feroli, JPMorgan’s chief economist, says:

  • “I expect to see continued acceleration in wages this year.”

And get this: Labor shortages may become more common. Employers are going to be begging you to take a job! I hope that makes you feel better if you’re facing a shortage of exactly the one job you need to pay your bills.

But then there are the gotchas from from the DOL reported by Bloomberg:

  • “More Americans joined the labor force but had not yet found jobs.”

Oops. And try this double-talk on for size:

  • “The number of people who were jobless and gave up looking for work declined to a three-month low…” but “One caveat: fewer people who were already in the labor force but unemployed were able to find jobs.”

Associated Press News

The Associated Press isn’t being left behind:

  • Since 2009, “the job market is in infinitely better shape. The unemployment rate is 4.7 percent. Jobs have been added for 75 straight months, the longest such streak on record.”
  • But, er, ah… “The proportion of Americans with jobs… dropped a full percentage point.”

Uh… apply the grammatical logic tool to that one and you get… More Americans are without jobs!

  • “Hiring has been solid yet still hasn’t kept up with population growth.”
  • “…many workers, especially less-educated men, have become discouraged about finding jobs with decent pay and have stopped looking.”

Yes, that means many, many Americans are screwed, but they’re probably not educated enough to parse those sentences to glean the economic reality. But when they try to pay for food next week, they’ll grab their pitchforks and torches.

Middle America

And don’t miss this troubling factoid: The “routine work” that pays middle-income wages is disappearing. But the good news is, those of you doing “higher- and lower-paying jobs” should have no trouble finding work! Tech jobs have “soared” 42%. Hotel and food service jobs have “jumped” 19%!

Apply the grammatical logic tool to that one and you get… Middle America can’t find a job!

  • More good news: “Over the past year, average hourly pay has risen 2.9 percent, the healthiest increase in seven years.”
  • But, uh, in a “robust economy” pay gains would be more like 3.5%.

There’s more, but your under-paid, under-fed or unemployed (or under-employed) brain probably couldn’t take it.

Let’s stop pretending

The jobs news is so contradictory that nobody knows — or will admit — what’s really going on. While the government, economists, banks and pundits spin a story that makes heads spin, I think the wisdom about all this is in the crowd. The people living, succeeding, failing, giving up, dropping out, scraping by and dying in this economy have a clearer picture of what’s really going on than what’s being reported.

How are you doing?

Early January of a New Year is a good time to sweep away the news and ask you — How are you doing in all this? I think we all want to know what’s really going on in our economy and job market.

  • Does this news reflect your experience?
  • Are you finding more jobs — real jobs — are begging to be filled?
  • Are you getting paid more money?
  • Are employers hiring you more quickly at higher salaries?
  • If you already have a job, has your boss increased your salary to avoid losing you?
  • What’s really going on with respect to jobs, employment and pay?

I don’t think we’ll sort this out, but we can do a more honest job of discussing the truth than the news pretends at!

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133 Comments
  1. Nick,

    Three years ago I opted out of the traditional full-time job market because of all the abuse one has to go through at the hands of (In)Human Resources /A.K.A., the makers of Soylent Green.

    I may not be on a yacht, but I’m the captain of my own ship. I advertise my own services as an individual contractor and get enough work through that and my professional network. Honestly, the busier I get, the more calls I get about work.

    I wonder if I will ever be allowed by HR to ever hold a 40hr job… i doubt it, but I don’t care. I don’t need to kiss their rings.

    The economic downturn I went through taught me a lot about how to be in control of my direction in life, even if there are lots of things I cannot control.

    • Carl – I decided not to get into the distinction between working 24X7 for an employer in a regular job, and running one’s own business. But you’ve highlighted the difference between working for the owner of a business and owning your own business. Two totally different scenarios. You’ve highlighted the option that I didn’t.

    • Hear! Hear!

  2. The labor news is a joke. I don’t even pay attention to it. I dropped out in late 2014. I now work for myself, but I’m STILL not making ends meet, so I’ve been looking for part time, supplemental work FOR OVER A YEAR NOW with no success.

    It’s gotten so bad for me, financially, that I’m applying for “cents-above-minimum-wage” jobs just to supplement my meager income.

    Know anyone who needs a virtual assistant?

    I’m looking forward to a better 2017.

  3. In May, I quit a company that was run by the bean counters, rather than people who actually understood the work. I applied for unemployment benefits and made my 3 employer contacts per week. I got calls from at least one of those contacts each week, but the pay they offered was lower than what I had been making, so I let someone else have the jobs.

    I have this ability to choose where I want to work because, when I had regular pay from an employer, we used the money to set up some non work income. Mostly rental income, including short term rental of rooms in our home.

    Now I’m going back as an employee for two reasons: To get more cash to buy more rental property and because of the ACA. The medical insurance premiums are very high and bumped up 25% or more this year. The exchange system is overwhelmed and it takes weeks to get a response. It may have benefitted the lower income folks, but it costs a lot for the people who are just above the cut off for the subsidies.

    This is where most Americans find themselves: Earning too much to be eligible for aid, but not enough to pay for more than the very basics.

    • Michael – While the Department of Labor takes credit for successes on certain parts of the employment spectrum, it seems to dispense with Middle America and people in jobs that aren’t cream of the crop and that aren’t burger flipping. I don’t disparage people in either of those categories, or the work they do — but when the system fails most people, it’s time to look at the system.

      I know I rant about it all the time, but I’m convinced the problem is not employers, the economy, automation of jobs, or even the government. The problem is the infrastructure that’s been put in place to recruit, fill jobs, and find jobs. People and employers have been totally fooled into thinking that a system that totally isolates them from one another is the only way to bring them together.

      There’s plenty of work to do, and money to pay for it. The problem is the system used to match people to jobs. It doesn’t work because it’s too automated and because it dumbs everyone down.

      You’ve found that bean counters don’t understand the work. I’ve found that HR departments don’t understand how to hire. Both are fatal problems for our economy.

      • HR doesn’t understand how to hire because they shouldn’t be the ones hiring in the first place. As you have said in a number of your posts, it should be the hiring manager who interviews and hires someone.

        • Imagine how it would affect profits if companies stopped paying HR to sort millions of applicants.

        • Because hiring managers have so much time that they can engage the entire onboarding process from start to finish. Also – I’ve been in HR 6 years at non-profits, medium, and huge corps. I’ve yet to see a company where the manager doesn’t conduct interviews or make the final hiring decision. As an HR Assistant, my job is to serve the needs of managers and employees, but I have no authority and truth be told neither does my boss. I see a lot of HR hate on these threads. Gets old. Do you people not realize that HR carries out initiatives that are decided and controlled by non-HR executives? Including compensation and in many cases certain aspects of recruitment? Where the hell does this idea come from that HR are these evil, ignorant minions? And for the record I hate applicant tracking systems and I can’t wait until they’re phased out. I think recruiters should engage in targeted marketing and review each resume. I like nick and enjoy these articles, agree with a lot but people’s “hr this and hr that” gets old since you obviously don’t work in hr so you don’t know what you’re talking about.

          • The issue, as seen by job seekers:

            You say that the hiring manager makes the final decision. Fine. How many perfectly good, qualified people are tossed out before the HM even has a chance to see them?

            > I have no authority and truth be told neither does my boss. … Do you people not realize that HR carries out initiatives that are decided and controlled by non-HR executives?

            Yes. That’s the root of the problem.

            HR has an absolutely wonder and essential job for managing the paperwork and reporting stuff for hired workers. All the “paperwork support” that a worker needs. That stuff is going to be relatively constant for all hired employees, and a department/staff dedicated to that need is a good idea.

            The issue is when they are (forced to be) involved in hiring for something that they don’t understand.

            > Because hiring managers have so much time that they can engage the entire onboarding process from start to finish.

            OK, then a serious question for you: Why don’t they?

            Why is a hiring manager expected to manage more people than they can interview, investigate, and handle?

            If the HM doesn’t have time to hire enough people, then maybe that manager is responsible for too many people, and the group size needs to be smaller?

            Now, a question for your boss: If the people above them set policies and goals that stand in the way of hiring good people, why does your boss not complain and tell their boss to change? I know that’s not something that affects you directly, but perhaps you can see something your boss doesn’t see, or perhaps you can ask your boss.

      • Nick, you make a good point about the problem being the “system”. However, I think employers are also part of the problem because they’re choosing to rely upon an increasingly automated “system” in which not only filling out the application is automated, but so is “interviewing” (I hesitate to use the word because with HireVue, it really isn’t an interview but just the applicant talking to himself on tape–there’s no conversation, no ability to ask questions, to follow up, to discuss something else) and reference checking. No one is holding a gun to the heads of employers, yet they’re doing the “let’s never meet/talk to anyone and let’s let a computer do the hiring” game and howling with indignation about a talent shortage when they can’t find better than perfect matches at intern (i.e., willing to work for free) wages. Job hunters, too, share some responsibility because for too many and for too long, they’ve been brainwashed into doing whatever HR wants rather than following your advice.

        Maybe this is one of those times when we should throw out the baby with the bath water–scrap the whole ATS/automated hiring system and start over with something non-tech or low-tech. More employers need to be convinced that the world will not end if they don’t hire the perfect candidate but hire someone with 70% of their fantasy candidate and train him in the areas he lacks. At one time on the job training was not only common but expected. No one wants to train anyone anymore.

        The last part of the problem is that employers want workers for dirt-cheap wages. When I see job postings that list for REQUIREMENTS (not preferred skills and education) a minimum of a master’s degree, 5-8 years of professional experience in the field, fluency in nine languages, multiple computer languages, 900 specs and require nights, weekends but only want to pay entry level wages or less, then there’s a problem. The talent exists, but as David Hunt commented in one of his posts, that kind of talent doesn’t come cheap. I bet employers would be able to fill some of the jobs if they’d pay more and be willing to train the almost-perfect candidate.

  4. There are no shortage of jobs if you’re 20 years old with 10 years of experience and willing to work 60 hours a week because working fewer hours indicates a lack of “passion”.

  5. I have been out of work for 13 months in my career. I send out on ‘average’ twenty resumes a week, often more than less. Since June, I have had FOUR interviews.
    I have gone back to being a server at a restaurant, not at one restaurant, but TWO. I work sixty hours a week on my feet. I have an MBA and a graduate in accounting from UCLA. The *ding-a-ling* statistics are bullshit, the low unemployment rate is due to those of us not wanting to live in our cars and taking jobs we can get, while the H1-B’s have shoved us out of jobs (thank you Obama and your twisted thinking).
    In addition, when I am not hitting the weekly money I need to support three children, I drive Uber/Lyft to bring in those last few dollars.
    Now doesn’t that make me feel as though I am hitting the American dream?
    Driving 4-5 hours in San Francisco living the American dream to make $100? (that is the average)
    If I had less scruples, I could be a sugarbaby. God Bless ‘Murica

    • Why, Lisa, your problem is obvious. You live in the most expensive city in the world. Move. All your problems will magically disappear.

      I think the problem is clear, but I don’t know how to fix it. Every employer I poll tells me they need good accountants and can’t find them.

      Say what??

      Then there’s the story told by Wharton’s Peter Cappelli, who’s with the labor school. He got an e-mail from a shocked employer that posted a routine engineering job, received 14,000 applications, and the company’s applicant tracking system rejected them all.

      The employer didn’t say whether it crawled into a hole to die, or crawled out of its algorithm-induced stupor and hired one of those engineers. I suspect the former.

      You can blame Obama, but I don’t see anything changing under Trump.

  6. In the Milwaukee area the main employer for direct hire and contractor headcount has been firing for over 6 years. The rest of the employers are tiny in comparison and don’t need the level of sophistication. In past years my ex colleagues were able to find jobs in the area or work remotely, but in the past year they are starting to relocate to the south based on the LinkedIn updates I get. Madison companies don’t seem to be trying to hire available headcount from the Milwaukee area even though it’s an hour’s commute.

  7. Nick,

    The numbers look good because the total number of people “looking for work” has dropped – but that is because they have stopped looking like Jen M. above and myself. We have been forced to go it alone and try to scrape it together. I make an okay rate some weeks, but others are dead.

    Then there is the issue of healthcare. We end up having to take things like Medicaid or pay exorbitant fees and buy our own. As someone who is disabled, I cannot go without healthcare as my medications would cost 80-100% of what I am able to make some months.

    I can do the work, but am visually seen as disabled so am at a disadvantage right away in the hiring process. People need to get over the “fear” of working with someone that doesn’t look like they do.

    Any thoughts?

    • I agree. When the denominator (# of people looking for work) gets smaller because people drop out, the numerator (people with jobs) makes the fraction look bigger.

      It’s called fraud.

      You’d have to read through Ask The Headhunter for my thoughts about how to beat the broken employment system. A good place to start:
      http://www.asktheheadhunter.com/6918/ask-the-headhunter-in-a-nutshell-the-short-course

      You don’t have to buy my books to suss out how to use these ideas. First thing to consider is, my approach is a lot of hard work, but so’s any job. You have to violate, break, go around the employment system. It’s the only way I know.

      • @Nick, you knew I was going to bring this up eventually:

        “Unemployment is at an all-time low at 4.7%” or some such is the smoke-and-mirrors number that on a good day only includes those who are out of work and have either registered for or are receiving unemployment compensation. FWIW, it can be found here: https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000

        The more accurate picture can be had from another figure, plus a little grade school math. If one takes the Labor Force Participation Rate, subtracts it from 100%, you have those who have run out of benefits, did not qualify, are under employed or have just given up hope of ever finding work. In December the percentage was 37.3% or well above FDR’s famous “one-third of a nation …” By pulling in actual number of people in the Civilian Labor Force Level, one arrives at 59,545,720 people in this country un- or under-employed.

        https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS11300000 (my favorite)
        https://data.bls.gov/pdq/SurveyOutputServlet?request_action=wh&graph_name=LN_cpsbref1

        Fifty-nine million, five hundred forty-five thousand, more or less. Even on a good month, 200 thousand or so new jobs scarcely makes a dent.

        What this country needs is general prosperity, and for this to happen, the private sector is going to have to start an continue hiring at middle-class or above wages until the previous percentage and the “unemployment rate” match. Government can’t do it, because all government does is reallocate wealth. The private sector might actually generate wealth with job growth.

        For reference: “One Third of a Nation”: FDR’s Second Inaugural Address
        http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5105/

        • The Participation rate is the the # working of people over 16 yo. Twenty million are between 16 and 24. Fifteen million are over 65. The number over 65 is growing dt boomers aging out. So the LFPR is going down. Means little.

          Yes, there are many people underemployed, but the LFPR doesn’t really tell us much. U6, which is “Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force” went from 10.5 a year ago to 9.4 now. U3 is the ‘official’ unemployment rate. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t15.htm

          There really isn’t a good measure for “working 3 part time jobs, none at the person’s skill level,” though there should be.

  8. I’m an EE at a small company focused on scientific equipment. After an end of year summary that indicated everything was on target, there were no raises at all this year. Why? Our customers are in the scientific research space – industrial and medical – and the new administration and Congress are expected to be unfriendly to investment in science. And there is an expectation that the economy in general could be affected by irratic and petulant influences. The company, which has been around for 30+ years, is tightening its belt expecting a bumpy ride.

    • I’m expecting the same. But here’s the contrarian perspective, which any good investment advisor understands. When things are in a state of flux, that’s the time to make the smartest bets, because flux and uncertainty create opportunity.

      The prospect is terrifying. But it’s more terrifying to sit on the sidelines and hope it all works out the way it used to.

      This is one reason I publish Ask The Headhunter. This forum is a place for honest people to put wishful thinking aside, and to discuss and explore ideas and alternatives that no one else wants to take time with. Translation: You’ll get more good ideas reading the comments on my columns than you will from my columns.

  9. I’m in northern Colorado. I have a job for another year, and then it all depends on what the new administration and Congress do to federal employees and contractors. The work I do must be done, but it’s not a national essential function for the agency. I’m laying the groundwork now for a self-employment business, because I doubt I’ll find a full-time job in any of my career fields. My significant other, with vast IT system and server administration experience in all platforms, got laid off 6 months ago can’t find a career job any closer than 70 miles.

  10. In Atlanta, GA. I was laid off in 2012 due to the downturn in Real Estate from an IT Admin position I held for 10 years. I was able to find another IT Admin job elsewhere before the severance package expired. I think it took about 6 weeks to land the job, but I literally spent 8-10 hours a day 5 days a week dedicated to the search.

    The VOIP Services company I’m at now has extremely high employee churn – hence the open position – but I have stuck with it more out of stubbornness than dedication. The stubbornness paid off about 6 months ago when a higher-paying position opened up, again due to employee attrition.

    I realize that my case is atypical – my employer certainly is – but I’m sharing to bring a bit of balance to the discussion here.

    • Thanks — it’s not all doom and gloom, but it’s certainly all up in the air like a bunch of juggling balls. The challenge is to find some kernels of wisdom in stories like yours that can be useful to others.

      What makes your employer atypical? What makes it a better bet? No need to name your employer. But it would help to explore what makes your situation better than most.

  11. Every time these numbers come out I roll my eyes “yeah right”. What this is likely people manipulating data in s the Presiedent can look as good as possible on the way out.

    What I have noticed is that more people are getting pushed out of their roles (either the straight forward way or something less so). Others are being artificially held back– think someone who is clearly the the Directer level who is never allowed to move up. There are people reapplying for roles so that they can stay at the same company without a promotion (reducing workforce).

    Boston is supposed to be “the hot” market but IMO “hot” means arrogant.

    My personal experience is that I took time off to address a medical issue. My former company (Novartis) where I had loved working did have a disability plan which I qualified for easily. After some time their disability provided terminated me without notice illegally. Met Life loses paperwork, difficult to be reached by phone, always asking for my of something…..anything to find a reason to deny your claim. I lost the pay and the health insurance….and nearly my home. I did qualify for social security disability pretty easily. So this is a ERISA violation.

    Now anticipating a return to work I face a saturated market. Employers look to rule out for any small thing because they always think a more perfect candidate is out there. Being Hybrid HR means I can do more than just HR and work with the larger picture in science, operations, & finance. Hr/Organizational development is a strength. For some reason employers are more comfortable with traditional generalist. Small companies assumed I must be “corporate” because I worked at a large company, never mind I worked for other top institutes that were not profit for years.
    My experience is with a progressive groups, so if anything in my experience is beyond what the recruiters is, they can get uncomfortable and intimated no matter how down to earth I am.

    Many companies don’t know what they want so instead if setting a budget and doing a job documentation and analysis, they wing it and then change the role 4 times and the candidate pool. Others take 4 jobs and try to smush it into one because one person is what they can afford to hire.
    This reply is the long version but the short version is that no way do Not believe the numbers coming out on employment & salaries. BTW neither do my HR colleagues.

    • There’s a stark message buried in your story. The more sophisticated a person’s skill set is, the more risky it is to trust a recruiter to judge the person.

      “Many companies don’t know what they want”

      Do recruiters know what a company wants when they reject talented job applicants?

      You know the old line from Shakespeare — “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” (Henry VI, Part II, act IV, Scene II, Line 73) I’m not for killing anyone while job hunting. But the first thing you have to do is avoid all the recruiters.

      Yes, there are some good recruiters, but not many. The safe bet is to avoid all recruiters and HR people — all intermediaries between you and the hiring manager — all the time. If a good recruiter or HR person runs up and bites you, fine, but don’t risk seeking them out or catering to them.

      In my opinion, they’re the single biggest obstacle any job seeker faces. Learn to go around them, and the news doesn’t matter.

      • Thanks for the great advice. Already I have told some agencies that we are not a good fit to work together. A few have used my planned time off as an opportunity to try to get me to take a low salary– counting on the fact that I would be desperate which( GE, winter wyman).
        At the end of the I have been holding out– knowing that 2-3 companies I have vetted have me on the radar and also willing to relocate and brushing up on foreign language skills so I can be as adaptable as possible.
        In the mean time I volunteer and help anyone who reaches out for help of any kind.

    • Your best bet will be to abandon the “Hot” Boston job market. Boston is one of the worst job markets in the United States.

      Best of luck.

  12. I’ve been out of work since 2013 save for one six month contract gig that went nowhere (I bypassed 1,500 rejections). I came across this article recently, http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/markets/9-million-american-men-in-prime-working-age-can’t-find-jobs-i’m-one-of-them/ar-AAlJOVu?ocid=fbmsnmoney, the story was nothing that surprised me. What did surprise me — no, disgusted me is a better term — was the comments section which was full of judgmental jerks calling him a spoiled “whiner” and how he’d have a job if he really wanted one. Very sad. I was tempted to comment but instead walked away. Pitchforks? The mob with the pitchforks is the one on the other side accusing me and the guy in that article of being “lazy entitled moochers.”

    • Oh, and just yesterday I got an email regarding a job for which I applied, the email was a demand that I design something for them (word doc was attached), then they’ll decide if I’m worthy of an interview. Good grief. I’ve been asked to do free work before during the interview stage, but never so blindly as this before even a phone screening. The deadline is tomorrow eod, what if I were out of town this week and comp!etely unable to do it, wouldn’t it have been common courtesy (and common sense) to have touched base with me first before making this outlandish demand? Nick, i already told you about the rejection that came thru on Xmas day, i also was “invited” to a hirevue robot interview…all these great hiring examples in only a few weeks’ time, some job market…

      • See, an email like that would have gotten a response from me that included my fee–how much it would cost them for me to complete that project (I do other things besides administrative support work.)

        I’m sick of playing their games.

        Now, I have been to a working interview, where I participated in a group interview (the staff was the group, I was the interviewee–just me, not a bunch of people all at once.) I had my interview in the morning, they took me out to lunch, and then they set me up in an office for the day and had me work on a deliverable. I didn’t ultimately get the job, but I enjoyed the experience, and they LIKED me. I missed getting the job by “thismuch.”

        That, to me, is different from a company just demanding project work up front. If they do that, they’re going to have to pay for it.

        • Jen – The idea is lost on people. If the employer wants you to spend some time showing how you’d do the work, that’s fine — in fact, it’s great — if in your assessment the employer has integrity and isn’t taking advantage of you. But if the employer wants you to deliver finished work, your next move should be to quote them a price. “For this much, I’d be happy to do the work for you, until you decide whom to hire. I hope it’s me. In fact, I’ll prove to you that it’s me by doing the work for a fair price. But I don’t work for free. Do you?”

          • I viewed the “working interview” differently than the other scenario. I had been interviewed and told that the project was part of it. Also, I was not expected to finish and deliver it. It was a test. I jut worked on it for a couple of hours so they could assess my skills.

            I was OK with it in that situation, because I really wanted to work there.

            But otherwise, I don’t play that game, especially if an interview is conditional upon delivering something. Nope. You pay me for that.

    • Sighmaster, thanks for posting the link. The story doesn’t surprise me either, nor do the comments. I’ve long since given up reading comments unless they’re here (ATH blog) or in the NYT (not NYT articles posted on other sites)–people have become so rude, so mean, so unconcerned about their fellow human beings, and there’s something about the internet that makes them think it is okay to spew their hatred and nasty comments (perhaps they wouldn’t do it if they were face to face with the person, but maybe not–there’s been a lot of bad behavior lately that is displaying the worst of us, not the best of us).

  13. From time to time, I have read some of those job reports, and it seemed like more people left the workforce all together than jobs created. In other words, the reason the unemployment rate is low is because people aren’t working, not because jobs are plentiful. Certainly we are better off than 2009, but have we really set the bar this low?

    Over the holidays, I was talking with a friend who is being laid off in January after working there 10+ years. He said he’s have at least 3-4 interviews each with a couple of companies which include various sorts of “assessment tests.” I understand wanting the right hire, but c’mon. Our parents were talking about back in the day, they called someone, talked to them about the job for 15 minutes and if they were interested, call them in for a 2-3 hour interview. If all sides were a fit, the job was offered within a reasonable amount of time. The companies did not come crashing down over night because they hired the wrong person.

    • Dave: I think you nailed it. “have we really set the bar this low?”

      That’s how politicians demonstrate improvement. If you’re in a hole in the ground, coming up to live in the unheated basement is an improvement.

      Then the next politician in line says, “We’re in the basement! Watch us build a ladder to the first floor over the next 4 years! You’ll love it!”

      And in four years, the newbie takes credit for adding heat to the basement while trying to figure out how to pay to finish the ladder.

    • A friend of mine went through 7 interviews before getting the job that she currently has.

      Do they really need seven interviews to figure out who is the right candidate?

    • Dave, you’re right. I think the stats are skewed because they’re deliberately NOT counting everyone. They don’t count you if you’re unemployed for longer than a certain amount of time. They don’t count you if you want to work but have become so discouraged, so depressed that you gave up looking for work. They don’t count you if you’re like me–employed part time but want to be working full time. If they used the labor participation stats, I think we’d get a much better picture of what the employment market really looks like. I think the labor participation rate is at an all-time low–about 62% of people who are eligible for work are working, so I think the unemployment rate is being deliberately suppressed lest it send shock waves through the financial markets and send stocks tumbling, or causing the people to truly get disgusted and come after the plutocrats with tumbrils and pitchforks. Revolutions have started with less.

  14. Omaha, NE here. Sure, the news is all good. Not! My programming contract ended at the end of 2016, so I’ve been officially unemployed for the last 10 days. I had one interview in December, knowing that my contract was ending, but I know I wasn’t a great fit for that position and wasn’t heartbroken when it didn’t come through. Other than that, nothing so far, and certainly nobody is beating down my door to talk to me about coming aboard. After living here for quite a long time and doing a bit of job-hopping over the years, I’ve discovered that this really isn’t a very big town in the IT market. Several recruiters work to fill the same relatively small number of positions that become available, so I have only two of them working for me (one is the consulting firm I worked for until a couple of week ago). There’s no point in having my resume in front of multiple recruiters to end up who knows where. And as expected, around here they tend to hire based on specific skills, not talent, which works against me.

    Honestly, I suspect that I’m going to have a career change foisted on me this year. I was planning one anyway, but it sure would have been nice to have one more year as a programmer to shore up finances first. After being in this industry for over 25 years, I’ve frankly had enough of it. I’ve got specific plans that will take me out of this town this spring (and I’m not sad to go), just need to survive and not chew up all my savings in the meantime. Fortunately I’m not married anymore and don’t have a family to worry about, so as soon as I sell my house (soon) I can move to where the jobs I want are.

    One complaint I do have, and I know Nick has talked about stuff like this before, is that I registered with a couple of temp agencies so I could find something *temporary* to carry me through the next couple of months. Gee, isn’t that was a *temp* agency is for? My problem – except for a couple of positions in the retail space (a stint managing a convenience store about 10 years ago and a few years recently part-time at a home-improvement store), all my experience has been in software development. That means I’m probably being pigeon-holed by the temp agencies, thinking that they can’t place me simply because they don’t have a programming position to put me in. Despite that I could do tech support. Or basic accounting. Or whatever. It’s supposed to be a *temp* job! I’m thinking about applying at Wal-Mart or wherever for a part-time job and not telling them my plans to leave town in April, just so I can bring in something for the next couple of months, then bailing when the time is right. Another thing that may work against me is if I’m too honest about letting them know I want to leave town sooner rather than later.

    • Jim — This is not directed at you. But, in the IT world, where there’s high demand for talent, does it occur to anyone that the reason good people aren’t getting hired and jobs remain unfilled is because fence posts called “recruiters” and “temp agencies” and “consulting firms” have no idea what they’re doing when they review job applicants?

      I mean, where are the skilled IT managers who know how to recognize the talent they need to hire?

      Do cattle ranchers send a truckload of fence posts to the cattle auction to select the beef?

      Sheesh. Sometimes I want to explode.

      • I think the “fence building” goes even deeper than that in the IT World. In my home (South Central Texas, USA) there is a growing tech sector. Most of the new hiring and growth is in startups and at one large, notable company. This company prides itself on its thorough, exhausting, and byzantine hiring process. They claim the practices they use are intended to filter out only the very best candidates. I suspect the real intention is not to find the best or most talented employees, but to see if the candidate’s personality will fit in with the hipster corporate culture. They don’t want talent as much as they want just the right kind of person. Of course, when they can’t find what they are looking for, they will blame the talent pool or lack thereof.

  15. I was out of work for 6 months last year – and despite my former success as a salesperson, I’ve been unable to find a suitable f/t staff position. The one job I was offered, of course, was much lower in salary than what interviewed for. I decided to start my own business. At age 54, I know there is no way I’ll get hired for a staff job. I’m lucky my husband is still employed and can help support us as I get going. I’ve landed my first client so I’m hoping that bodes well, but overall I have found the jobs report laughable and Pollyanna-ish. I’m also concerned about the new administration destablizing what little momentum we may have had and starting WW3. Guess we won’t have to worry about jobs then.

    • Please keep this in mind as you develop your business. It’s just not true that a regular job is more secure than what you’re doing.

  16. After 13 years abroad, I returned to the U.S. in late 2014 to help out with elderly parents. Since then, I have had some 50 interviews without one job offer. In many cases, the person who received the job was an H1-B holder.

    Now that three of our four parents have passed away, I plan to go abroad again for work in 2017. It makes me sad that in order to earn a living, I have to remove my family from their country, rent out my house, and leave one sibling with the burden of managing my father’s care. Who would have dreamed that the U.S. would have turned against its own citizens in such a manner!

    • I’ll be honest – the H1B problem is one big reason I’m sick of programming. At my last contract gig, a full 1/3 of the large IT department was H1B, mostly from one certain Asian country. And we were located just down the block from the largest public university in town churning out bachelor’s and master’s degrees in IT! I’ve had enough. Unless something comes through in the next couple of months, I’m adopting the mindset that I’m changing careers and starting over again from the bottom. I’ll make it work, even at age 55.

      • My exit from engineering was similar. Laid off in 2014 from a position in software (which I always hated). I had a great employer and liked my co-workers, just not the work. The company had a severance benefit of $2,500 available for education. After assessing my strengths and what I really liked to do, I followed Nick’s advice on changing careers and took 11 accounting classes to qualify for the CPA exams. I have passed 2 of the 4 exams and have the final 2 scheduled this month and early March. I look forward to starting another career in audit. By the way, I am 67. I have enough saved to live frugally, but I like to travel and would rather keep working than stay home. Good luck.

        • Good luck getting an accounting job. I have a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a number of years of experience at the lower end of the field, although many years ago, and I couldn’t seem to get anyone to give me a chance over almost 3 years of looking. I wasn’t applying for high-level accounting jobs either.

      • I watch collages and universities, as well as everything from pre-schools to high schools crow on and on about how they are making STEM curricula,and are oh-so closely aligned with the business community. None of these graduates will qualify for a programming job here, unless you graduated from a university “over there”, are here on a H1b, and are willing to work for peanuts. About all the STEM-schools are doing locally is graduating a basket of unemployables (to borrow a great line).

        AND YET the city and county cannot hire enough crews at any price, wither FTE or contract, in order to repair the failing infrastructure, such as the water mains that for a while were generating a sink-hole a week. The local police department is 500 officers short, and is shutting down investigative and violent offender bureaus in order to just put more bodies on the streets. HVAC companies find their technicians bogged down in routine plumbing jobs because you can’t find a plumber.

        But no schools are offering these courses.

  17. My husband lost his job three years ago, in the pharmaceutical industry, and despite (or because of?) decades of experience and a doctorate, has gotten only one interview since then. He’s been willing to shift focus from research to sales, etc., but it’s clear the companies want young, cheap labor rather than actual know-how. Ageism seems to be rampant in many industries. He’s recently earned a certification for teaching high school science, and found that he was treated poorly during that process as well–even though there’s supposedly a shortage of science teachers in secondary schools.
    I work in publishing, and recently received a long-overdue promotion with a small pay increase. This was due to the fact that another colleague left her job, freeing up resources within the department. I would not have been promoted or given a raise otherwise, as the company has frozen raises for years. My boss is a really decent person and fought for me. She is also smart: she filled the open position with an older candidate who had less technical experience but more talent than younger applicants, knowing this new employee would have the right can-do attitude and be a good member of the team.

  18. I have had trouble finding a good job, full time paying above $30,000 for the last 8 years. Last year, I quit my 30 hour a week job to go to masters school b/c that it the standard for hire in my chosen career field. My friend at that employer got a 2% increase in 2016, with a hiring freeze going on there. She makes less than $33,000. My open position was filled a year later at 16 hours per week. My husband has not had an annual raise in years but got 3% in 2016. He was making under $50,000 before the raise. People are surviving in this large, expensive, southern city at stagnant wages but high housing costs. This is a booming city, lots of people make good income but there is also a lot of older adults working as grocery store cashiers and Uber/Lyft drivers. My millennial son is kept under 36 hours at his full time job and he’s unable to find work in his college degree field. My plan to go back to school was to babysit or be a personal assistant through a care finder website. Yes, there are jobs listed there but you can see how many have applied on their app. I was finding numbers like 40-60 applications already received before I would have applied. For part time $10-15 an hour babysitting jobs!! I am interning at a hospital for my degree plan and finding the days of full time employees are gone even there – it’s mostly on call, as needed, employees. The minority of staff work regular full time with benefits.

    • Hmmm. You mean the number of jobs posted doesn’t correspond to the actual jobs waiting to be filled? Wonder how that happened?

  19. I moved from the midwest to the west coast with a 66% raise. In fact, my former small company even raised me further. Then they started cutting back for weeks or months at a time – 10% – 20% – 40% – the worst was a 40% cutback for a month, then back up to 20% cutback. When I interviewed with companies, they said my salary range was way too high (actually, in my town, many companies just drop all contact with you after an unsuccessful interview). My current company pays more than the -20% salary I was getting, but quite a bit less than my previous full salary. They are more stable, however, and make up for this in benefits.

    PS: My previous employer counteroffered saying they would not only put me back on full salary but that I would get a raise to boot! Why didn’t I take it? Because I think that would have been a bad business decision for them.

    My wife has a master’s degree in her field of library and information sciences but cannot find work in that field – I don’t know what will happen to libraries, but everyone I know ways that the internet killed the library. There never really were that many library jobs anyway – they don’t pay well, and many people I know in the field (including a retired librarian who was employed from the early 20th to late 20th century) would typically have to move to find a job. Those who most often stayed in the field were single women because those who were married would typically move due to their husbands’ work (my wife, for example).

    My final word about libraries: Anyone who thinks the internet has killed libraries is short sighted – the internet is nothing more than a medium on which to keep information. As a librarian, my wife has the skills to do “google searches” more efficiently than I do.

    Here is my challenge to everyone: I think we have a talent pool out there who can help us wade through “fake news” and get to the correct information. They are our librarians. Anyone who says, “All you have to do is a google search” is missing out on the richness of data searching that a human specialist in information, the librarian, can provide.

    Am I crazy, or is it my age? I’m 51 years young – perhaps with more maturity I will understand this better.

    • The WSJ just had an op-ed piece about how California is increasing become a place only for the well-paid or the poorly paid (http://www.wsj.com/articles/uncomfortable-truths-behind-californias-economic-surge-1483747393). From the piece:

      “Yet the exorbitant cost of living, driven principally by high prices for energy and housing, is pushing working-class families inland and out of state. Last year 109,000 more people left California than moved there, according to the Census Bureau. By contrast, Florida gained 207,000 and Texas added 126,000 net migrants. State data show that California refugees are mostly fleeing coastal counties for neighboring states.”

      There is a political angle here as well but the point is that living in northern and southern California is increasing becoming unfeasible. My wife grew up in San Diego (we are currently in Wisconsin) but I want nothing to do with high taxes, high property costs, earthquakes, etc.

      I am currently employed in IT but we now have a growing office overseas and one always worries.

    • Library science has long been as much (if not more) IT than about books. In my own county, government has cut back library budgets and library hours, out of sheer ignorance about what libraries and librarians do. It’s beyond shameful — it’s stupid.

      My take on librarians:
      http://www.asktheheadhunter.com/reference-librarian

      • Nick, I could kiss you! I’m going to send your link to my fellow librarians–we’re facing this mentality from the upper level muckety-mucks at the college, who seem to think that we are easily replaceable–all you need is google. My former dean used to sign her emails with Gaiman’s quote about a librarian “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.”

        We’re struggling to educate the students, and face an even bigger battle trying to educate the administrators. Thanks for the support. You just made my day!

  20. Working in the oil industry, I have seen a lot of forced retirement and layoffs in the past two years. I have been fortunate to stay close to production where work is needed just to keep the cash flowing. At the same time I was able to make a significant discovery so I proved my value for now. Now they are hiring again at my company, taking in new hires from previous internships, but they are still laying off which just adds to our workload. There appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel. We are adding new rigs, and every new drilling rig adds a few hundred jobs somewhere in the supply chain. That increase is still tenuous, and there is a huge backlog of experienced engineers, geologists, landmen, and others who want to come back to work.

    I have an informal market indicator that tells me which direction the oil industry is heading that I think precedes rig counts. I count truckloads and train car loads of drill pipe (it takes two or three miles of pipe to drill one well) during my daily commute. Loads are on the increase after a year-long hiatus of no loads, which means companies are planning to increase drilling and production again, but we are far from being back to high employment levels. So when you see a truck loaded with pipe, give him a cheer because someone is going to go to work after that delivery.

  21. I get pinged by “recruiters” 5 or 6 times a week, but almost exclusively for contract gigs (I work in the tech sector as a tech writer and training wonk).

    In some cases, the engagement look interesting, but the rates quoted by the contract house are mediocre, at best.

    In all too many cases, the rates barely rise above minimum wage, with the requirements listing a minimum of a BA, Master’s preferred and 5 years of experience, and a list of requires software tools as long as your arm.

    I believe, at least in the area in which I am knowledgeable, it’s pretty easy to find work, and pay the bills. Anything more than that is rare, and lord help you if you have college loans you have to discharge.

    • Roseberg: Thanks for posting this. Folks, please note the emphasis on “recruiters” and “contract gigs.” When we see labor statistics, I think what we’re seeing is activity of recruiters from contracting firms — recruiters who are stunningly unqualified to select, interview and judge job applicants, especially in technical fields — and it relates mostly to short-term, part-time gigs.

      These recruiters generate enormous churn — loads and loads of applicants, interviews, and rejections. This is the breakdown of the employment system. You can’t get a job because there’s no one left out there to qualify you for a job.

  22. I work for a state/federal sponsored organization that helps with regional planning and teaches job search techniques. I read article after article of them dancing around this topic and spinning tales even though they are some of the best people to see the truth. It’s infuriating and plainly political. There should be stories in the news about businesses cutting their own throats (figuratively) because management refuses to take enough of a pay cut to afford employees at livable wages but, instead, there are just articles about how businesses and colleges need to work together to create the skilled workforce that is supposedly missing. It’s the willfully blind leading the blindfolded. There is my vent on your blog for the year. Keep up the great work, Nick!

    • Well, you could send links to ATH articles on this subject to those organizations, and ask them to pass them along to their clients :-). Thanks for your kind words. I think the challenge is to get the word out to job seekers who scratch their heads when they listen to drivel about how good it’s gonna be…

  23. Been out of work since 2008. In 2016, I secured a job at a government contractor and getting paid 2/3rds of my 2008 pay. It’s not the career choice I wished for but I’ll take it. Thanks Obama for eight years, and good riddance!

  24. I have been underemployed for 6 years. I now work two low paying part time jobs. I am barely able to make ends meet. I am in the process of transitioning careers. So my goal is to save enough money to finance a move out of the hellish state of Illinois.

    They have been spinning bogus job reports since Obama took office. If anyone had a shred of reasoning skills, it’s obvious these reports are contradictory. It reminds me of communist countries that would spin economic stagnation as progress through decades of 5 year plans.

    I want to thank you Nick for what you have been doing. I have been visiting your blog for 9 years. I even purchased some of your books including How to Change Careers. It has helped me tremendously during this difficult time. Keep up the good work.

    • ML, SAG: I don’t think presidents have much control or influence at all over economies or the job market. I don’t blame or credit Obama any more than I expect Trump will create loads of jobs.

      Folks: Political spin on all news is how people who really run the world distract us from our real problems. Neither the government or either of the major political parties are telling the truth. They all deliver a daily dose of soma — “a fictional hallucinogenic drug in Aldous Huxley’s novels Brave New World and Island” — that distracts everyone from what’s really going on, by triggering the most base human reaction to bad news: blame. Keep people angry, give them “evidence” to blame some one, some group, some scape goat, and the anger will distract people from what’s really going on. More important, instilling such anger and blame stops people from looking at the root causes of problems AND DOING SOMETHING ABOUT THEM.

      Whoever is in office gets the benefit of controlling the spin on news. Whoever is running for office gets the benefit of stirring public opinion against whoever is in office. Both have the same agenda: Foster anger, trigger blame, and turn a united people against one another, because that’s how you keep them from meaningful action.

      Who is actually in office is you — the citizen.

      If you want to understand how we all — including me — wind up making enormous mistakes of judgment, how we miss the truth, how we wind up on the wrong track, please read Michael Lewis’s new book, “The Undoing Project” — the story of how Amos Tversky and Danny Kahneman discovered how broken our judgment is, and why. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0393254593/asktheheadhunte

      • Nick,

        Of course presidents can’t create jobs. But they certainly can impede the process with bad public policy. My whole point about referencing the Obama administration is that media was obviously in the tank for his administration at the expense of properly reporting the true nature of the economy.

        You can bet that once Trump’s in office, the media will blame him for how bad the economy is. And who knows what Trump will do. There’s a vicious circle going on. A lot of companies are poorly ran. Which is due to a kind of short term mentality that has pervaded many organizations. Which in turn is due to the poor quality of education many people who runs these businesses have.

        For my own situation, I can only arm myself with the necessary information to prepare myself for entry into a new field. I can only be responsible for my own life and how I deal with challenges.

        • > … media was obviously in the tank for his administration at the expense of properly reporting the true nature of the economy.

          Big Media has been lying/misleading the truth about our economy … pretty much ever since “big media” came into being.

          I stopped my subscription to the Los Angeles Times, not because paper was dead, or the web was easier — just the opposite, early adaptor news sites were horrible to use, and modern news sites are barely better. Paper news is much easier to read, and understand, and ** older LA Times reporting was good quality, detailed, and gave me information.

          Then, it was sold. Slowly, the quality went down. The degree of needing to read between the lines went up. The same actions would be described in two different ways, based on whether it was our country, or an enemy of our country. Etc. As it became less trustful, less useful, I just dropped it.

          Years later, I found out that this was when big media was consolidated to only about 6 or 7 people owning 90-95% of the newspapers and news shows/stations.

          Does “Big Media” distort the truth of what it reports? Yes.
          Can you now get pretty much any truth you want reported from the appropriate source? Yes.

          But if you can get a slanted left-leaning truth here, or a slanted right-leaning truth there, or a slanted liberal here, or a slanted socialist there, or a slanted nationalist over there, etc. — then what is the real truth?

          That has disappeared. And if the answer is to read many different sources, and try to understand the truth in the middle, then this means you are your own reporter, trying to verify sources, and suddenly the whole point of paying someone else to do the work is out the window; and now it takes too much time to stay on top of everything.

          The “pretend the economy is roses even when it’s thorns” behavior? It did not start with Obama. It goes at least all the way back to Bush.

          • Keybounce: I’ve had similar experiences. I was a long-time subscriber to Newsweek and Forbes. The former sold out to the Daily Beast and reporting turned into cheap blogging and airing of thoughtless opinions. Forbes turned from investigative financial reporting into clickbait writing. I even dumped Fortune, for similar reasons. The online-ification of news publications has nothing to do with “online” and everything to do with failed business models and last-ditch efforts to stay in business by cheapening the product to the point where it’s worthless.

            My favorite pubs nowadays are Bloomberg Businessweek and Wired. BB can get political, but in general it has the best reporting anywhere — BB employees real reporters. They don’t just “curate” (steal) stories and comment on them. They use original sources, including interviews. Wired does in-depth stories on stuff I’d never find anywhere else — it’s more than just news.

            I prefer my news in print, but won’t get into why here. Thanks for your thoughtful post about an issue that affects people far more than they realize.

  25. What I see is a lot of spin.
    Every “authority” is looking at the facts and data through a tube, finding the bits and pieces that fit their private agendas, and then extrapolates it to be the reality of the whole job market and environment.

    “Figures lie… and liars figure…” is an old expression at work here.

    For example, none of the reported news even touches on the plight of people over the age of 40 who are unable to even get interviews because they’re considered “obsolete”, or not cool. Regardless if they bring with them a wealth of information and experience that would have direct impact to the bottom line for an organization.

    Also, in today’s job market — no matter what your demographics — you have to be your own advocate. You have to persevere; you have to be true to yourself and not compromise; and you have to maintain your faith …

  26. My husband has a well-paid job with the Feds. I work part-time. We have been doing this for a lot of years, but in the past four years we have seen ourselves on an inexorable financial slide. Costs go up but salaries don’t. My part-time work pays $13 and $14 an hour (for professional-level work) with unreliable schedules. We both have Master’s degrees and many years’ experience but those attributes aren’t helping much. The culprits? Health care costs, debt that refuses to go away (Mohela, the company managing my husband’s school loans, recently lowered his payment to an amt that will pay interest only without notifying him or giving any reason – makes us feel that their desire is to keep him enrolled forever) rising rents (outpacing pay increases by 2 percent) and just a sense of a tightening noose. I am currently looking for a REAL job (reliable hours, meaningful benefits, and company-paid-for computer, phone, lights and heat) – don’t know yet what the results will be here in Denver. When I see the rosy reports on the economy, I feel let down and abandoned by my government because I know these figures reflect what some want them to, not reality. I think we the people need to get together to form co-ops to conduct basic services for ourselves and bypass systems that are functioning in the favor of their owners and not in the favor of clients or the community of citizens. What say you, fellow citizens? Let’s pool resources and provide each other with loans and health insurance on a small scale within communities.

  27. Well, it seems that at least the readers of Ask the Headhunter have a different story to tell than the government. No surprise there. I’m wondering if people with solid, well-paying jobs simply don’t read your column, Nick. That seems unlikely. Also, it seems like most people have plenty of experience in their fields; I didn’t get the sense that many recent graduates or those early in their careers are responding.

    I share a common experience with most of the readers. A degree from (at least one of) the top universities in my field of Engineering, followed by a Master’s ten years later. Solid career growth (one layoff in 1996) until 2008, then sporadic employment since. When the times are good, I’m making a salary that reflects my skills and experience. When they’re not, I’m on unemployment or working trivial jobs like landscaping.

    Currently on my third startup after two previous failures because I obviously can’t learn my lesson. :) The work is great, I’m making a huge contribution to the business, and I’m loved and respected. But the money works out to less than minimum wage when calculated on an hourly basis. My choice of course, because I could try working at a “real” job. My wife has taught for over 35 years, so our household income is stable; lucky me.

    It’s a frustrating world, but it’s the world we live in. Our only choices are to adapt, and to change the system so it is more fair to all.

    • Fully employed checking in.

      I have been reading Nick’s blog for years now… not because I am looking for work, but I realize the inevitability that I may doing so be in the future. Nothing specific, no impending doom, but in a world of at-will employment where one can be fired for any reason or no reason, I always make sure to have one foot out the door at all times.

      Employee loyalty was lost decades ago; I always keep feelers out, and expect to be cut as soon as the bean counters realize it’s more profitable without me than with me.

      It’s tragically cynical, but that’s the world we live in.

      • Jeff: Top business schools pay me a lot of money to answer this question from Executive MBA students — people who’ve been running companies for 7-15 years on average — who want to advance their careers:

        “When should I actively start my search for my next job if I want to move up?”

        You said it in another way in your comment, but this is my answer to them:

        “Two years ago.”

        Their eyebrows go up, they cock their heads, and usually within about 15 seconds they get it. You have to run your job search all the time. Nice having you around :-)

    • ” I’m wondering if people with solid, well-paying jobs simply don’t read your column, Nick. That seems unlikely.”

      It seems unlikely to me too. I’m in the business of helping people find work. My experience–which began in 2008–is that clients come to me when they’re out of work and looking for a job, and plenty of them come to me because they’ve got a job and are looking for a better one and want all the help they can get in an economy and hiring environment that are getting crazier every day. For the same reason, I’m sure that even larger proportions of the employed group are reading ATH.

      • Ken: I don’t keep stats, but in the 20+ years I’ve been publishing Ask The Headhunter, I’ve noticed a distinct trend. Far more employed than unemployed people read and participate. Those who come here because they’re unemployed often move on after they get a job. Those who are employed stick around, and they participate actively. I’m not dissing the unemployed — they’re welcome here and I hope more visit — but I find it’s the employed who offer some of the best advice and insight to the entire community. I think that’s the secret of this website and community, and it’s why the standard of discourse and behavior here is so high. I’m very proud of that.

  28. I gave up looking for work in October after looking for 2 years and 10 months with very little interest in me. I figured that was enough time to determine that I wasn’t going to get the job I wanted using the methods I had been using. Not sure what I’m going to do now; very frustrating and demeaning.

  29. I think the contradictory numbers you cite are pretty much accurate — it’s a mixed bag and a lot depends on a variety of factors. Yes, mid-level jobs with more routine responsibilities are disappearing, while there is growth on the high and low ends, mirroring the trend in business success (mid-sized companies are not doing well, while the behemoths and niche players are thriving).

    There is also a lot of geographic and demographic disparity. If you are in the SF Bay area, even NYC or Boston, things are not bad — even robust. Not so much in Ohio or Michigan or even places like Southern CA’s inland suburbs. Less educated people, disproportionately people of color (pointing out the irony of all the focus on the “white working class”), are not doing as well as those with advanced degrees.

    Older workers continue to face discrimination, which is why I stopped looking for a job and opened my own consulting practice. While the money is inconsistent, the work is satisfying, and I love controlling my own destiny, just like Jurassic Carl above.

    But let’s look at mega trends — as bad as it is now for factory workers with HS degrees, the real shocks are yet to come with the growing impact of artificial intelligence, which will begin to replace more educated workers in such areas as transportation (it is estimated that if driverless cars and trucks really catch on, it will eliminated 3 to 5 million jobs), accounting (basic bookkeeping and accounting), law (simple contracts), engineering (simple design and programming), even journalism (writing basic news releases and stories). What will happen when millions of white collar workers with BA’s are out of work and hopeless, like those folks today in the Rust Belt? I think they will be really pissed.

    • I believe the level of automation will only be at the level that is sustainable – in other words, we have the capability of much higher automation than is currently implemented, but that would take money that just isn’t available. I call it “automation saturation.”

      If there is so much automation that companies could just fire everyone, then they would lose their customer base. Then they would go out of business.

      At the same time, you can’t just do a job search from your computer all day and hope to get something. You have to actually hang out with real living, breathing human beings. Sorry, but there’s no app for that.

      • “you can’t just do a job search from your computer all day and hope to get something. You have to actually hang out with real living, breathing human beings. Sorry, but there’s no app for that.”

        Kevin, you just nicely summarized about 80% of Ask The Headhunter. Thanks.

  30. NEWS FLASH! Recreational marijuana has been legalized. it is manifest in the way the lame-street media is reporting the jobs numbers.
    As far as I am concerned it is just hallucinations. I have been out of work for going on 5 years with an active job search, and yes I am finding more possibilities, but no one wants to interview, let alone hire someone who has been out of work more than 1 year. 35 years experience, 2 undergraduate degrees and 2 patents still will not get you a roll of toilet paper.
    There is no shortage of talent, just a re-configuring of the purple squirrel effect.

    • “There is no shortage of talent, just a re-configuring of the purple squirrel effect.”

      When ZipRecruiter tells HR that the purple squirrel is in the database, just keep looking, HR keeps looking, spends more, while work goes undone.

      “It’s in there. Just keep looking… and paying…”

  31. I think there are lies, dam lies, and statistics.

    I think there are two different things being discussed with different people having different definitions.

    Lets say that you have two people. In scenario one, one works 40 hrs per week, and the other is unemployed. In scenario two, both work 20 hours a week.

    In #1, there is 50% unemployment; in #2, there is 0% unemplyoment.

    But now look at the number of jobs. Scenario 2 has 2 filled jobs, a 100% increase from #1.

    If you look at “how many jobs there are”, without looking at “all of these are parttime, or temp work, or “as needed” with only occasional pay, you overstate the number of available or filled jobs.

    If a person is working two different 20 hour jobs, that’s an example of “lots of filled jobs” — heck the number of jobs filled can be higher than the number of people working.

    Spin? Unemployment? The last time I applied for unemployment, I was told that I qualified for a weekly check of $0. I don’t know what I did wrong, but apparently, that was pretty close to the point where if you were getting unemployment at time X, you got an extra 100 or so weeks of additional unemployment (when it normally stops at 26 weeks total).

    Is the system broken? Yes.
    The solution starts with better reporting of what is really going on, rather than what the inaccurate statistics say.

    • If you look deeper, and not depend on just the short articles, you’ll see that there are lots of metrics. Someone wanting 40 hours (or 30) and getting 20 won’t be counted as fully employed by some measures. Ditto with the unemployment rate based on those looking for work as opposed to the rate with everyone in the denominator. If you think college and high school students and stay-at-home parents and the retired are in the job pool, unemployment looks real bad.

    • Paul Solman, with whom I work at PBS NewsHour on my ATH feature there, used to publish the Solman Scale, which captures exactly what you’re talking about. I haven’t seen it in a while, but historically the scale has pointed out that the numbers are far worse than the Dept of Labor suggests.

      • You have an ATH segment on PBS newshour?

        I generally only catch the weekend newshour, as a summary. I haven’t seen anything about the Solman Scale, or any questioning of the official Dept of Labor statistics. Do I need to start catching the weekday shows as well?

  32. Two years ago my daughter’s job ran out in Germany. She got one here with no big problems. Her husband, who is German, came and got a job in under a month (two offers) at 40% more salary than he got as a consultant with a prestigious company. Neither of them would ever bother reading ATH, so the readership here is a bit slanted to those with problems getting jobs.
    People like me, who have left the job force quite happily through retirement are one of the reasons the pool is shrinking. I worked in tech for 36 years, never got laid off, never unemployed. It is not all horrible out there.
    More people are confident enough now to be changing jobs, so if you don’t have one you are competing against them. And that is tough. And while I’m sure this does not apply to anyone here, on the average people who have stayed unemployed in a rising market are going to be maybe less qualified. I know someone who was unemployed a lot during the tech bubble where you could get a job as a programmer if you could spell C. It was not due to unfairness of potential employers.
    Just wait until the morons on Wall Street trash the economy again due to lack of adult supervision, and the horrible times today are going to look like a golden age.

  33. Unfortunately these bogus, out of context stats are regurgitated by all media, as far as I can tell. “Lazy journalism”. . . which won’t change soon.
    I remember the biz editor at NPR poo-pooing the fact of age discrimination, as well. She sounds comfortably past mid age and might want to cover her backside lest she is canned w/o cause,notice or severance.

  34. The worse the economy gets, the more the media disinformation campaign goes into overdrive.

    I too have had a very hard time finding a decent job over the last decade or so. Even before I took 6 years off to take care of my Mom so she could live out her days in her own home, it was VERY hard getting a job with a company that 1. paid their employees and 2. Didn’t have EXTREMELY high turnover. As an older female in IT, I have a good education and good experience, but age and gender discrimination are a huge problem, as is the fact that I live in the heart of the Rustbelt (WI).
    In November, I was forced through necessity to take a call center job that pays 18.00 per hour with draconian working conditions, and the high turnover to match. Hard to see how this will get better any time soon.

  35. This video clip is of a lady lamenting the challenges trying to find a job:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gF153DA2icY

    • I didn’t watch it all, but yah, it seems to make the point.

  36. I don’t see it getting better at all. Wall Street and the stock market are doing fantastic. The investor class is doing really well. Those of us who have to work for a living, not so much. I’m in Massachusetts (Western MA), and the job market here sucks. Jobs added last month were part-time, seasonal jobs, and even then, I couldn’t get one–had to jump through all kinds of hoops and do back flips. No one will take an application or even trying to get a manager to come out and talk to you is impossible, even when stores had signs that read “Help Wanted”. They refused to talk to anyone until they’d gone online, filled out an application (to be screened by ATSes and if you got through that minefield, then vetted by HR), agreed to take “personality tests” and other tests. Then these same employers howled that kids and the unemployed are lazy because they can’t find anyone when the truth is that they do everything they can to make it impossible for people to apply.

    And yes, even for jobs that require “skills”, employers say they can’t find anyone, but God forbid that they do any on the job training.

    I think the government AND the media do a lot of false reporting on the labor market because if people really knew how high the un and under employment stats are there would be rioting along with the pitchforks.

    • I have family up in that area. I know it’s hard up there. Funny thing is, we’re looking to move up there in the next three years or so. I LOVE it up there!

      I am experiencing the same thing with retail. People say, “Just get a job at gas station/fast food restaurant/store,” but it’s not that simple anymore. I tried to apply for one retail job the other day, and I had to jump through so many hoops that I just gave up after the fourth link they wanted me to click on.

      • Jen: Here’s a tip, especially with retail, food service and such jobs. Skip the online app. Just show up. Ask for the manager. Don’t say why. When the manager comes out, ask for the job. Showing up counts — and that’s what the job boards count on you not doing, so they can keep charging dopey HR departments to post jobs. But the manager with boots on the ground — that manager usually cares about just one thing: getting the work done. Help make it easier for that manager to hire you by showing up, and even if it doesn’t work every time, I think it increases your chances of getting hired dramatically.

        • Thanks. I’ve been tempted to do that. I’ll follow my gut from now on.

          I’m only looking to supplement the income from my VA business, though, so I have to work really hard to look like I’m invested. It’s easier to fake it online. ;)

          For anything other than my VA stuff, I really just want the paycheck.

      • My first choice is not retail, but since I’m currently only working part time, I’d haven taken a part time retail job, even if it is only seasonal. You’re right, everyone (meaning everyone who has a job) thinks it is simple to get a mcjob, and it isn’t so easy any longer. I did what Nick recommended to you–show up and ask to speak with the manager, and even then, at best I was directed to their website, where I had to fill out the kind of application that people getting top secret security clearances have to complete, and at worst, the manager refused to talk to me (even after asking when it would be convenient for him to meet for a few minutes), and overhearing a “if people won’t go online, then they’re stupid/can’t follow directions and they’re not worth meeting.” I tried local supermarkets (both of which had help wanted signed prominently posted in their stores), Wal-Mart (big sign telling people they were hiring seasonal help), Home Depot (ditto), Lowe’s, etc. Yet the staff complained that there wasn’t enough help, as were customers due to the long lines and inability to find staff to help them find and reach items. But management won’t talk to people like me who walk in, résumé in hand, ready to work.

        • Good to know. The stores in my town are those chains.

          Silliness! :/

        • At my lowest point I walked into a Lowe’s (Attleboro, MA), they had the usual “we’re hiring” banner hanging out front. I went up to the info desk and asked the woman if I could talk to someone about applying. I’ll never forget how NASTY she was to me. She had an awful scowl on her face the whole time, and barked at me to go online and apply. I said you mean there’s no one here I can talk to first? Her answer was an absolute NO, and if I don’t have a computer/internet then go to the library and use their computers. I walked out in disgust. I did check out their online app, just like you said, the amount of crap they wanted for their minimum wage gig was insane, from personality tests to drug testing. (I’ve worked since 1986 and I never had to take a drug test before 2013, what happened? Is our workforce really so saturated with drug addicts? I mean, how on earth did any work get done in the old days w/o the standard drug test?)

          I came across a thread on the Indeed forum not too long ago (can’t find it at the moment) where they were talking about these stores with the perpetual “we’re hiring” signs, lots of folks said they tried to apply only to find out via someone on the inside that the sign was completely bogus, they’re not hiring at all, but there’s no law to say it’s illegal to falsely advertise this.

    • I have thought about picking up some hours in retail to supplement my full time work. The amount of begging and what you have to submit to for a simple near minimum wage job these days is stunning.

  37. Here’s the deal. You are counted as unemployed while you receive your unemployment check. You are no longer counted as unemployed when you stop receiving your unemployment check. They stop counting you that way. What they count you as is a discouraged worker – meaning you aren’t looking for work any longer because you no longer receive an unemployment check. It matters not if you are looking for work while no longer receiving insurance.

  38. Nick,

    The rock you have kicked over is the story of the 2016 Presidential election. In show biz, there is a concept known as “believing one’s own hype.” In the case of Obama/Clinton, they put out fairy-tale job statistics and then quoted these same stats to brag about how great the job market is. One needed only to look at the packed Trump rallies to see people who were not dummies, racists, or misogynists but simply people who are sick and tired of being out of work. If the government job stats were accurate Trump would have faced arena after arena filled with empty chairs.

    Case in point: My specialty is so-called Cyber Security. According to the media, depending on what you are reading, there are 1,000,000 unfilled positions in Cyber Security. No, make that 2,000,000. No, 5 million! In actuality I see both of the job openings that occur in any given week and they either pay grocery-bagger wages, require unpaid relocation to the Deep South, or require a Top Secret clearance. Maybe all three.

    Most recently I heard feedback on a job I had applied for, the “hiring manager” (probably an HR type) had decided that 100% of the applicants were poseurs and fakers. This is what I call a “district attorney” interviewer, her mission in life is to phone-screen by cross-examining and browbeating each applicant until they are proved unworthy. Needless to say, after three months all four available positions are unfilled and have been reposted.

    • MBS-JOBS: I agree that dissatisfaction is what packed the Trump rallies. But talk to me when Trump is the government and people are still sick and tired of being out of work. Presidents don’t create jobs any more than the spam in your e-mail box will help you lose weight.

      But your other point is far more important and interesting. Given your field, you probably know what a critical path is. What happens when we put an inept screener at the beginning of the path to hire a specialist in cyber security? What happens when we put 10,000 inept screeners there, for thousands of other jobs? What happens when the entire HR world is dominated by those screeners? What happens to the project?

      I don’t know one policy maker, or venture capitalist who helps fund another stupid database-oriented “recruiting solution,” or HR exec, who gets that.

      There’s no way to hire you, when the employer is trying to hire key words.

    • Another thing is…. If there were so many jobs in “Cyber Security,” companies should relax their job requirements/screening. I’m not saying to hire someone incompetent, but they may have to train people up and/or make the job more attractive in some way.

      I always laugh when I hear people complain that there are too few “qualified” people in certain (usually technical) fields. There is a shortage of purple squirrel type candidates willing to work for peanuts. There is not really a shortage of people interested and willing to do the work, but maybe needs some experience/coaching along the way.

      • Dave: Sometimes I think what there’s a shortage of is good HR managers who know how to hire talent… and a shortage of good managers who can train, coach and develop talent.

        Why do companies want only someone who’s done the exact job for 5 years already, who’s willing to take 20% less salary, and hit the ground running with a smile?

  39. Dear Lefty, I am disabled (on dialysis) and am currently working with an organization called “Ohioans with Disabilities”. These organizations are specifically for getting people that are disabled jobs and also should provide monies for education. This is a county organization and I know for a fact the US has theses types of organizations all over the US, typically located in county government probably for states also. Hope this helps.

  40. Please! Everyone! Stop the politics on those responses! Stop blaming the President! Just. Stop! This is not a political forum!

    • The big issue is that the policies made by the people at the top really do affect the whole economy.

      Control it 100%? No.
      Have no effect at all? No.

      How strong in the effect? That’s a big question. Some people want to say it’s very weak, others want to say that it dominates the whole thing.

      To say that there is no politics, at all, in the economy? Just false.

      A quick example: How many foreign workers should be allowed in, and how much should a company pay to be able to hire a foreign worker instead of a domestic worker?

      That’s a political question, decided by the people at the top. Has to be, it is something that affects international affairs, so it is a function of the federal government, and ultimately Dept of Labor, and Immigration, both of which are cabinet-level positions, so they are decisions/decision makers that report to the President and are informed and instructed by the President.

      That is just the simplest example. And the scope and scale of that single question’s answer can result in anywhere from “little to no effect” to “massive effect”. And that’s just one of many different things that can add up.

      So how strong is the total effect of government policies? It depends on what those policies are.

      You cannot discuss the economy without discussing politics. They are one and the same.

  41. I think it’s possible there are jobs aplenty in certain categories, but that certainly hasn’t reached me. I have 20 years of HR management experience, and here I sit, unemployed for 8 months. I’ve been hit with layoffs before (my favorite job was at a major hospital in NYC that went bankrupt), so I’m not unfamiliar with the hunt, but it’s never taken anywhere near this long.

    I don’t think the jobs reports are fiction, but I don’t think they show the whole picture. I also wonder if my age (not that I’m all that old–50) is playing a role. I know age discrimination exists, but I didn’t think it was so widespread, since some must value my level of experience, but something odd is going on.

    • Jess: Nice to hear from someone in HR. This isn’t a loaded question — I’d really like an inside view. Working in HR, did you see age discrimination against candidates?

  42. A Day late, but still wanted to add my 2 cents. I enjoy Nick’s blog immensely, however, I do not in a STEM related field. I lost my professional footing during Dubbya’s administration, when the world lost its mind due to the instant access of technology. Despite having a terminal degree in my field and considerable, and extensive, experience inside and outside my field I keep hitting a concrete wall.

    Mostly, I have worked low-wage short and long-term temp assignments. Highest wage being $15/hr, which by the way would have been a living wage in 2001 but is not in 2017.

    I have tried “networking,” but people with jobs in my industry treat me as if I am a leper. I give to get, am professional, etc., but have had less than a handful of people REALLY offer any substantial information or contacts that might actually lead to something.

    and Nick’s advice, among other strategies, as well as the old tried and true submissions through the ATS, all with varying degrees of success. Yes, the media is spinning the story and one thing that seems rarely taken into account in the reporting is the type and kind of employment people are looking for and the regions in which they live.

    Everyone does not work in tech. Artists, writers, and librarians, and accountants, and other professionals are struggling too. And whilst we used to believe, as a nation, that more education was valuable, employers see that as financial liability. No one wants to pay for quality, everyone wants cheap labor. And the millennial crowd is where that’s at, not matter if they don’t have as much experience.

    Regional inequality:

    http://washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/novdec-2015/bloom-and-bust/

  43. Definitely true in Software Development. After going through the stages of grief, companies are slowly coming to terms that outsourcing to India had disastrous consequences in terms of return on investment and product quality and are slowly but surely requiring on-premise, US citizen workers. That means the industry is starving for workers. I’m making 120K now, been at my job for 2 years, and seeing job postings where I could make 180K working for a competitor doing the exact same work. That’s a 50% raise, not to mention sign on bonuses are standard.

  44. Been engineering and slinging code successfully for close to 30 yrs. Have always kept up with all the latest technologies. Over the last 2 yrs. have produced analytical apps for BI, machine learning, Javascript, etc. for the web using all currently hot, hot, hot technologies.

    The resumes that I send out usually get an almost instantaneous UFO (You f*** off) response from the top-tier dev companies despite having every requirement in spades. I’m convinced it’s because the depth and breadth of experience I present is an indicator that I am on the far side of 30 and ain’t an H1-B.

    The replies that do get that indicate interest in my skills are always from body shops that want self-financed relocation and offer laughably low pay rates.

    Fortunately I still stay working snaring gigs via my network of friends and colleagues.

    So the reality is that all the happy, happy tech jobs news is a bunch-o-crap and is a front for resume stockpiling by body shops and dev companies looking for cheap labor rather than paying for experienced problem solvers.

    • Definitely age-ism in the field. Like it or not–Hiring Managers assume you’ve outgrown the position of a front-line developer. Have you considered re-branding as a Manager or Architect? Your age will work for you, not against you, in those roles.

    • Maris: “always from body shops”

      Yup. That’s the problem. An employer may not be able to look you in the eye and tell you the job requires your extensive skills but, uh, we’re only gonna pay you half what you’re worth.

      HOWEVER, that employer has no problem deploying a silly “recruiter” at a job shop to tell you exactly that. And that “recruiter” and job shop has no problem “competing” with 50 more of same by telling the employer, “No worries, we can get you who you need for 60% less than you think you’d have to pay… just let us turn on this database of talent and send you all the talent you need.”

      Maris, I’m convinced the problem is not lack of jobs or even lack of money — there’s plenty of both. Employers have been sold a bill of goods — “We can find you the purple squirrel for less!” and many employers have decided, “The market is awash with talent… look, they’re minting database records of talent…! We’ll pay less and still get what we want…”

      Just like outsourcing overseas, this approach will fail as quality goes down the drain. Question is, who can wait as long as that will take? Our economy is now founded largely on phony promises and a voice on the phone that says, “Please press 1 if you’re willing to take an automated customer satisfaction survey at the end of the call… and give us data without getting paid while we save money by not doing our jobs to begin with?”

      Guess I’m in a bad mood.

  45. I adjunct at two colleges, plus private tutoring on the side, and still barely make enough money to cover rent. One of my schools just froze all full time hiring indefinitely. Applied for some non-education jobs with no luck. Prior to this I was mostly under/unemployed for a few years out of grad school. But when I started working as a part-time teacher, for the first time in my life I qualified for unemployment benefits last summer! Yay! So I “entered the workforce,” or whatever, and also added to the unemployment statistic.

    • Ah, the system “they” designed works… and they’ll blame you when they realize you got it working :-)

  46. Hi Nick,

    I worked a seasonal retail job at one of the largest department stores in the country for the 2016 holiday season. The Labor Department claims about paychecks in that sector are disingenuous. As I’m sure you know, many of these workers with “higher paychecks” see a brief bump in earnings due to commissions. What the labor department does not say, is that we took these positions for a few months knowing that they would end in January after the holiday season came to a close. Also, they don’t say that those paychecks shrink for full timers because of a drop in business and returns to those department stores. ( The one I work at subtracts commissions if items are returned, and since it’s the nations largest, I have no doubt that smaller ones do the same.) many of the people I worked with during this time were educated, intelligent, college educated people over the age of 55 who had been laid off during the recession and have not been able to find A full-time job that matches their former salary.

    Every single one of these people is capable of working most of the ridiculous jobs I see posted on indeed.com, which include job descriptions that require you to have three years of experience working with social media so you can sit at a computer and post company updates on Facebook and Twitter.

    • David: There’s a term for that. “Taking advantage of you.” Of all of us.

  47. Nick,

    I also forgot to mention that pay rises a bit in the retail sector during the holiday season because everyone in every department is working upwards of 40 to 50 hour weeks. Now that the season is over, the seasonal people are being released while the full-time people are having their hours cut .

    so, claiming that this is a sign of a stronger job market might be true in the literal sense for a few months, but in the long term it’s completely meaningless.

  48. I was laid off in 2016 but landed a comparable job (even at a slightly higher salary) in a relatively short time of 4 months. That said, I agree with Nick’s observation that it’s the job search/hiring infrastructure that’s causing the problem.

    During my job search, it would take companies on the order of 4-6 weeks to get back to me about an initial interview. Mind you, I’m not talking about the ones who rejected me outright. If I heard anything from them, it was more like 2-3 months. No, the ones who actually wanted to talk to me would wait 4-6 weeks. Then it’d be another 3-4 weeks after that before they made a decision. In this day and age, I don’t understand how companies can let work slide for two whole months.

    I actually gave up applying to numerous jobs that I knew I was qualified for. Why? Stupid ATS stuff. Ten minutes into an on-line application, and I’m transcribing crap that’s already on my resume.

    Then there are the job inquiries from automated systems and recruiters for jobs that I was either wholly unqualified for or would not take because of the pay/location/whatever. I don’t know how, but I would get emails/calls/etc., and there would absolutely nothing on my resume or in my background that would have the smallest thing to do with the job. The funny thing is that I keep getting inquiries about some of the same jobs that have been open for months and months.

    And let’s not forget the contract positions at sub-market wages which everyone seems to be moving to. Thankfully, my wife has a good job, so I never got to the point where I had to consider them to get by. I was not looking for a hired gun position lasting as little as 3 months. Yes, 3 months. How companies think anyone can be effective in a job for only 3 months is beyond me. As above, I keep getting contacted about the same positions again and again. (The really funny thing is I actually worked in one of those positions, and the company hasn’t been able to keep it filled since I left. It’s not a testament to me but rather to how poorly the company is run.)

    So, add it all up: companies that take forever to respond, make you jump through useless hoops, offer sub-market wages, waste time contacting the wrong people for the wrong job, and state they’re not looking for a long term relationship by offering contract positions. It’s no wonder people can find work and companies can’t find workers.

    The company that did hire me? A recruiter who had a relationship with them called me about an open position. Three weeks after initial contact, I had an interview scheduled. (There was no real delay on their part, it was just one of those things where they wanted everybody in the office.) A week after the interview, I had the offer. The next two weeks were basically paperwork/physical/background check/etc. No ATS. No HR BS. No online applications or “assessments.” The hiring manager was in control of the whole thing.

    If companies would actually talk to people and offer realistic wages for full time position instead of trying to treat people like cleaning supplies bought on line for the lowest price, things would be a great deal better.

    • Chris: Every economist, federal policy maker and personnel jockey should read what you wrote. Then their bosses should read it and fire them.

    • There’s a natural selection/systems effect going on here.
      Where do people stay with the company for years and years? Good companies that value employees. What happens when good companies have openings?
      They fill quickly with folks who know someone at the company, etc. They interview and hire. Opening gone.

      Where do people leave the company after a few years because they can’t stand it any more? Clueless, bad companies. What happens when clueless, bad companies have openings?

      The clueless, bad companies can’t fill their openings, so they post jobs on cattle call websites, run applicants through clueless ATS’s, and do all the insanity people report here, looking for purple squirrels. HR reports a talent shortage.

      Do you see the pattern here?

      MOST of the jobs advertised ANYWHERE, posted on sites, or pimped by recruiters are from clueless companies that abuse employees, and can’t find the employees they need. You don’t want to work there. Sad but true. There’s two parallel systems of employment, and you want the invisible one.

      • DataDriven: That’s a good, concise behavioral rule that explains how good and bad companies recruit and hire. It fits in nicely with my suggestion to go straight to the company, not to the job postings, and to pick your targets very carefully.

        A corollary: Companies wind up in trouble because they post jobs on cattle call websites and wind up hiring based on a forced choice: They pick from who comes along. They don’t really recruit. It’s a nasty spiral. Those new hires fail, quit, do it again.

        And there’s a massive system out there that HR departments fund to keep everyone involved going around in circles that spiral down into more failure and disaster.

  49. Has anyone done a study on the ebbs and flows of labor reports during election cylces?

  50. I am unemployed at this time. I had stopped looking for a corporate job and started to consult part time just to make ends meet. I started to reach out to people I know that I had done job favors for and I have not received the responses I had expected back.

    I received a response back from one company after I submitted an online application that I must complete an online behavioral assessment. The job is for a high level position and they want a behavioral assessment? I did complete it and highly doubt I will hear next steps on the job.

    I get directed from hiring managers I reach out to directly about positions to go fill out applications online that disappear into a black hole. I follow up and don’t hear back.

    Other jobs pay way too little for someone like me who is overqualified for many jobs and yet I have received too many calls from recruiters and even from company HR recruiters looking to hire me but for half the salary I made before I was unemployed. What is going on?

  51. “The “routine work” that pays middle-income wages is disappearing. But the good news is, those of you doing “higher- and lower-paying jobs” should have no trouble finding work! Tech jobs have “soared” 42%. Hotel and food service jobs have “jumped” 19%!

    Apply the grammatical logic tool to that one and you get… Middle America can’t find a job!”

    It also means that those attempting to move up into Middle America from Lower and Working class America are increasingly screwed.

  52. IMO a large part of the issue is that government metrics just haven’t kept pace with the rest of the business world. While most businesses have moved on to values driven business analytics and increasingly intelligent analysis – the government hasn’t really changed diddly squat in decades.

    If you are employed full time – you are counted as full time even if you have a Masters degree and are currently working in a Call Center. Employment metrics do not take into account the level of education and this is insane with an increasing number of candidates with advanced degrees, certifications, or both.

    • @Driven: You raise an important point I haven’t seen before. Who are the people being counted? The problem of updating the analytics seems to be surfacing, but you’ve added an important angle.

      • I’ve seen this issue mentioned before.

        If you are one member of a music group, doing a performance, you have performed one man-hour of performance work.

        There is no concept of quality in that measurement at all. Has nothing to do with skill or anything. What’s the performance rate of a worker?

        You might measure coders in lines per day — 10-50 lines of debugged, quality code, depending on the skill.

        You might measure bicycle builders by number of bikes made per month (well, when they were built by hand, anyways).

        But how many performance-hours of service / entertainment / art work / doctoring / etc?

        You can’t even go by “Well, better quality will correspond to higher prices”. Not really. A movie costs the same amount whether it is a special-effects block-buster, or a cheap-made low budget film. Advertising / hype has a better prediction than production costs — consider that for book authors, a study (quite a few years ago by now) showed that the biggest correlation between how well the book did was to the size of the author’s advance (which implies the bigger investment by the publisher, hence the bigger desire for the publisher to make it sell).

        And that (going by prices) doesn’t even take “pro-bono” / charity work / discounted work into account.

        We have relatively fewer and fewer jobs where the quality of the work shows up in any standard measurement. As soon as a job is “assembly-lined”, quality disappears from the equations (all of the people doing job X on the assembly line are interchangeable.)

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