Our Local Job Market – Finding the Right Balance

67

When I last wrote an article about the local job market in September, I was filled with exuberance and optimism that the end of the extended unemployment benefits would translate into a flood of willing applicants to fill the hundreds of local jobs our local businesses are looking to hire, but that instant response didn’t materialize in the timely basis it was predicted to be. Instead, the Jobs Report by the Bureau of Labor released in early October reported an extremely disappointing 194,000 new hires (nationally) when they were expecting over 500,000. It seems the flood of job seekers were not yet ready to report back to work. However, so much of that has been changing over these last 3 weeks, that I am extremely confident that the Jobs Report due to be out in the first week in November will have a very different result if our local market is any indication.  

Our two offices have had more walk-ins over the last three weeks than the last three months combined. Our ads are finally working again, fills are being made, and things look to be greatly improving from the perspective of hiring and staffing. We are also getting many orders from new and existing clients for positions in higher levels, like mid to upper management, due to people leaving jobs to find greener pastures elsewhere, opening up many higher paying jobs than we are accustomed to seeing.  

And the wages that blew up over the last months of businesses desperate to find labor have not lowered, so we are seeing average wages for entry level positions at a whopping $17-$20 an hour, which is nearly a 25% increase from just a year ago. Again, this is for unskilled labor positions, not the more skilled trade jobs. It’s remarkable but the new norm is a much higher wage range across the board. I don’t see this changing in the short term, as it’s incredibly difficult to go backwards with wages, and despite more people entering the workplace to fill jobs, I don’t see wages going back to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon.

As I touched upon in my last article, it would be nice to find a balance to where it’s not entirely an employee’s market, nor an employer’s market, and that’s exactly where I see this headed. For those employees re-entering the workplace and thinking they are in for signing bonuses and calling the shots in every regard, they might have waited too long, as those are seemingly going away as the needs aren’t as pressing as they were just a month or two ago.  

I also look forward to restoring a balance between worker expectations and client expectations. I’ve commented in previous articles about the quality of entry level workers and hopeful that a little more competition to find (and keep!) jobs will add to the quality and dedication of our work force. Local businesses have had to take what they can get for an extended period, and I’m sure they’ll be happy to be a little more in the driver’s seat when it comes to employer/employee relationships.  

So as this strange year hunting for the elusive workers roars into the 4th quarter, it seems to have a head of steam and appears by all measures to be on solid ground for the balance of the year, and hopefully beyond. We shall see.