You read that right. For the first time in decades there are more jobs available than the actual number of people that are on unemployment. As of July 2018 there are 6.3 million people in the US on unemployed, the equivalent of 3.9%.
Axios, an online media company, shared yesterday we’ve officially crossed the barrier of more jobs available than people suitable or ready to fill them. Our economy also continues to boom as we’re in the longest job growth period on record, now 94 straight months.
How can this be? If the economy is doing so well and there are so many jobs available why is it we still have so many people unemployed and why aren’t those which are unemployed taking the available jobs?
ANSWER: The American workforce is changing, changing in TWO BIG WAYS:
1. Sedentary Lifestyle: we’ve become a society of professional sitters. The average person now sits, yes – sits on their keister, upwards of 51 hours and 44 minutes a week. It’s such a dramatic change in our society and workforce that some are now calling ‘sitting’ the new cigarettes. We’ll leave the health aspect of sitting to another article.
For younger generations this lifestyle is their only perspective on working and it’s beginning to have a significant impact on our economy as it’s changing the jobs they’re taking, or willing to consider. Jobs which are considered physically or mentally demanding aren’t at the top of the pecking order and those industries are having an incredibly difficult time getting new blood to join the ranks. (construction; farming; trucking; skilled trades like plumbers, electricians, mechanics; emergency services; law enforcement, etc.)
The change to a seated society tells us something else. As a society we are moving away from a ‘do-it-yourself hands on’ society where we’re focused on production to a society of ‘creative typists’. The new skilled trade is programming, not plumbing.
Today’s emerging workforce wants to be close to technology and feel good movements while being free of work which may be construed as physically or mentally taxing. Getting your hands dirty on the job is out, sitting inside with the AC and nap-pods is in!
2. The Skill-less Unemployable: No one likes to think that there are people out there which don’t have skills or aren’t employable, it’s un-American. Yet it is becoming an increasingly frightening reality. The second reason our workforce is changing is there are a growing number of unemployed workers that are finding themselves unable to take advantage of the volume of job opportunities on the market due to their skills or abilities becoming out dated. Out of date just like the baloney sandwich my mom used to make for my lunch in grade school.
No one eats baloney sandwiches anymore, so if you didn’t adjust your skills with the growing times, moving to turkey or tofu, you got left behind. And left behind without even realizing it, holding a moldy, crappy sandwich (your skills) in the process.
Those who are unemployed at present are largely in part just not employable. Of course, there is always the exception to this rule however the growing majority of people who are unemployed just don’t have current day marketable skills to function in an environment which increasingly demands technology proficiencies. With national unemployment rates under 4% it tells us that those who can work are working and those who can’t – well they’ll continue to experience hardships trying to find jobs in a marketplace that is increasingly unforgiving and more expecting of people’s capabilities.
As a result, the gap continues to widen whereas those who have been unemployed for some time trying to find work will continue to experience much of the same. The stigma attached to unemployment, the longer you’ve been out of work the more likely it is you will remain out of work, is a harsh reality for those unemployed. With so much opportunity to be had in the marketplace people who are unemployed for longer than a month or so find themselves having to develop colorful explanations as to why they weren’t working to hopefully appease prospective employers.
About the Author
Travis Smith is the founder and managing director of Square-1 Engineering, a life sciences consulting firm, providing end to end technical project services to companies which design, develop and or manufacture products in Southern California. He successfully served the life sciences marketplace in SoCal for over 15 years specializing in engineering services, consulting, project outsourcing and leadership development. In 2019 he was recognized as a ‘40 Under 40’ honoree by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce as a top leader in Orange County, CA.