Everything You Wanted to Know About Today’s Job Market (but were afraid to ask) – Part 1

The first step towards creating work you love is – understanding the context.
What is happening in the job market, and how does it affect you? And your choices?

The Job Market

We tend to measure the health of the job market by looking at the monthly “Jobs Report” issued by the Labor Department. It comes out the first Friday of every month. You can read about last month’s numbers here.

Right now, the unemployment number is low, at 5.0%. The job creation number is up. That would seem to indicate that the job market is healthy.

And, yet why does it seem so hard to find a job? Why is it that our friends, family, neighbors, and sons and daughters seem to be struggling to find great work?

The jobs that are being created are not the same quality of the jobs that are being shed.

292,000 new jobs were created last month. (Good news? Bad news?) Sounds good to me.

Of those, 73,000 were in a category called “Business and Professional.”  Good news…except that half of them were in a subcategory called “temporary help.” Hmmmm…bad news.

That’s the biggest challenge with today’s job market. On the surface, everything looks great. But, when you dig below the surface, you’ll see that a lot is going on. Some good. Some bad. Some unusual.

You can pick a statistic and argue either side – good news or bad news. For example, watch what the two political parties are doing.

Leading Democrats say: Unemployment is 5.0%, half of what it was when we had the financial downturn in 2008-2009. Good news!

Leading Republicans say: The labor participation rate is at 62.5%, a rate we haven’t seen since the 1970’s. People who want to work, can’t. Bad news.

Both groups are correct. So, it’s difficult to get an overall picture of what’s really happening in the labor market.

Here’s what you need to know…traditional structures of the labor market are breaking down, and a new paradigm is emerging. We’ve got the “Gig Economy,” “the Interim Market,” and more fluid and flexible work arrangements. We have less stability and predictability than we had in the past, with full-time jobs, salaries, benefits and careers with a single company. On the other hand, there is more flexibility to create work you love, around who you are and what you can contribute, than any other time in history.

Good news? Bad news? You get to decide. The first step starts with understanding what’s going on…I’ll be writing more of these posts in the future so that you can piece together your own interpretation.

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