Friday, October 9, 2009

"Competition" for jobs at record levels

Yahoo (via the AP) is reporting "Job competition toughest since recession began." The takeaway:
There are about 6.3 unemployed workers competing, on average, for each job opening, a Labor Department report shows. That's the most since the department began tracking job openings nine years ago, and up from only 1.7 workers when the recession began in December 2007.
What I find stunning is that there were 1.7 unemployed workers for every job posting when the recession began in December 2007. I can't decide if that is efficient or not! What that indicates to me is that even when things were going well, there were still more people than there were available jobs. Our economy seems to require a certain amount of unemployment, of course, so what do we take from this?

It is clear that there is a talent gap. That is, that there are always jobs being created for which there aren't enough qualified individuals to fill, and there are always jobs being eliminated that have a surplus of talent. Efforts to address this usually involve displaced worker retraining, but that is always a reactive outlook. Is there a better way?

Up until the 1990's, a lot of companies would retrain workers with skills that were no longer needed. The linked article articulates many potential reasons, but what I take away from it is that it is clear that individuals need to take this upon themselves to do. Is that asking a lot? Probably, but it is always easier to find a job when you are currently employed (or at least it feels easier because there is less pressure).

Here's the simplistic advice:

First, seriously evaluate your current job and its future prospects. Both within your current company, and what would happen if you lost your job. If you have a job on this list, it doesn't matter how secure you feel with your current employer; if something happens, it will be difficult to find a similar job in a similar industry.

Second, pick a new career likely to experience job growth.

Third, train for the new career and leave your current job when you have lined up a job in the new career. There is a lot of advice on how to do a career change; but the key is to commit to it before it's too late.

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