COVID-19 turned our world upside down. Over 22 million people lost their jobs in the US. While the US is making a recovery and businesses are reopening, the pandemic has taken a toll.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, recent employment jumps occurred in leisure and hospitality industries. Smaller gains occurred in temporary help services, health care and social assistance, retail, and manufacturing. But still, the Congressional Budget Office doesn’t expect employment to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024. Even though things are looking up, the unemployment rate of 6.2% and number of unemployed persons at 10 million, has changed very little since January. Both are substantially higher than pre-pandemic unemployment rate (3.5%) and unemployed persons (5.7 million) levels.
The job market right now is recovering. Slowly. Many employers are hesitant to bring on new employees as the economy slowly rebuilds. It will be important to watch how the job market rebuilds as more and more businesses reopen.
Looking through my crystal ball (and a whole lot of research) here is what I predict for the upcoming year.
- This is the time to stay put. Changing jobs right now will be more challenging due to increased competition. Instead, find new opportunities within your company. Look for online learning opportunities to increase your skill set so that when the job market changes, you’re ready.
- Find industries that are growing. Three words: digital meeting rooms. Who would have thought a year ago that we would be celebrating birthdays through digital meeting rooms? Other industries that have done extremely well include the personal protective equipment and plastics, cybersecurity, and e-learning resources and classes. A lot of us think the boom is in the healthcare industry but there are a lot of businesses in the periphery that have done very well.
- The gig economy is here to stay. I wrote this same sentence in 2017. Only in 2017, the job market was flourishing, and it was a job-seeker’s paradise. The only truth from 2017 today is that freelancing is still growing. Personal shoppers are considered one of the emerging gigs of this past year. Freelancers have more opportunity in a job market where employers do not want to bring on full-time employees. If you have a skill that transfers to the gig economy (hint, you do!), use it to boost your income.
- Watch ongoing trends to position yourself for a new role. Pay attention to emerging markets. For example, personal shoppers, fulfillment specialists, and delivery drivers. Healthcare support staff will continue to boom – especially as the boomers age. Many of these emerging roles require little, if any, additional education. Take advantage of online training programs within these areas.
- Get in front of people. It might not be a great time to find a job, but don’t give up. Get in front of people. Build your professional network and be prepared when things open up. Update your social platforms, join groups, invite people in your network out for a virtual coffee date. Stay at the top of their minds for when businesses need more employees.
Setting career expectations during a recovering economy can be challenging. The word of the year is “flexibility.” There are opportunities. Remain flexible and shift into emerging markets.
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