Rebecca May Ristow | Managing Editor
We’re being told now more than ever that entry-level jobs now require years of experience, certain graduate programs need you to have professional credits, and college, which was once optional, is now seemingly a requirement for success. The changing narrative surrounding the job market is one of uncertainty and fear, where many don’t see a way to enter the career they want. This is attributable to many possible things.
One thing is for sure, it's not because there aren’t jobs.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of January 2023, there were 10.8 million open jobs in the United States. However, quitting rates had decreased and layoffs increased. We can thank Covid-19 for some of this. Companies had to have major layoffs and as profit decreased, hiring did too. According to a survey done by ResumeBuilder on over 1,000 different employers, “45% of employees and 44% of employers say navigating the job market is more difficult now than it was before the pandemic”.
Job-seekers main priority in this survey was also noted as having a flexible work schedule, something that the pandemic has proven possible. With many people realizing the ease of working non-traditional work hours, or the possibility of working from home, flexible schedules seem like an easy request. However, only 1/3 of surveyed employers gave this option. Additionally, only 20% of companies have started offering improved health insurance or retirement benefits, despite this being the second most common job-seeker request in America.
In my opinion, the pandemic has spurred Americans’ fear surrounding public health, which makes benefits seem all the more enticing. Americans have also become acutely aware of how other countries with unlimited PTO, free health insurance, and better benefits functioned during the height of the pandemic. We’ve realized how much good is possible, but how little good we’re being offered, encouraging bitterness.
Pew Research also raises some interesting factors in their 2016 study. As of that time, 54% of adults who were in the labor force said they found it essential to get additional training and “develop new skills throughout their work life to keep up with changes in the workplace”. An additional 33% said it seemed important, but not necessarily essential. These opinions were particularly true of young adults (61% among those ages 18 to 29), which Pew attributes to the perspective of having a “longer road ahead of them” as well as an increased need to compete with those who have more experience.
It's also a chain reaction. The increased belief that more education is needed to compete for jobs, leads to a simultaneous increase in people seeking a higher education. This, in turn, leads to more and more competitive applicants on the market. From 2011 to 2021, the United States Census reported that the high school completion rate increased from 87.6% to 91.1%, population age 25 and older with associate degrees rose from 9.5% to 10.5%, and completion of bachelor's degree or higher increased from 30.4% to 37.9%. Also, “from 2011 to 2021, the number of people age 25 and over whose highest degree was a master’s degree [or] … doctoral degree” rose 50.2% and 54.5% respectively. More people have an advanced degree now than ever before.
Besides all this, there are simply more people now than before. On LinkedIn alone, there were 19% more active job applicants in 2022 than in 2021 and the ratio of applications sent per applicant was 22% higher. So, statistically, not only are there more people in the job market, they’re applying for more jobs, have better education, and live in a world where there’s much more tension between employee and employer. It's an extremely scary world to be entering, especially as the “post-Covid” generation, where the job market is totally new and unexplored.
How do we change this narrative? The only true solution is a readjustment of the employer-employee relationship where time, benefits, and needs are being honored, as well as experience and education. This can happen at a government level, like raising the federal minimum wage, or on the employers territory. It can also be helped by education offering more unique and competitive opportunities, as well as a more nuanced approach to teaching students about resumes, interviews, and the application process. I think a lot of the time, students miss out on jobs because they were simply never taught how to apply for them. In conclusion, educators, students, politicians, employees, and employers have to start working together to better the communication and relationships present in the job market.