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.
In honor of Fathers’ Day yesterday I’m sharing a personal story which I’m incredibly proud of, as well as continuously inspired by.
Often I hear people say that by your late 40’s to early 50’s a professional has hit their zenith, their peak, pinnacle, apex, summit - if you will, in their career. Late 40’s? How can that be? At that age you’re only half way to retirement. What’s to become of the next 20 years?
I like to think that statistics like ‘hitting your peak in your late 40s’ is nothing other than just a data point. We only make it relevant if we live up to it.
Imagine this - at the age of 51, could you completely reinventing yourself professionally? Not because you have to but because you want too.
I know someone who did just this and it happens to be my father, Steve Smith.
After a tenured and very successful career in consumer products, “condoms to caskets” our family used to say, my father hit a pivotal point in his career. He had just exited a senior leadership position with a large multi-billion dollar company in 2008 and found himself in a predicament. He was looking for his next career step at the age of 51 and at the same time the economy was starting to come crashing down.
Needless to say it was a tough time back then. The uncertainty in this country was thicker than pea soup. We didn’t know which way was up or if the recent paycheck we received would be our last. As companies were closing down left and right someone I know took a bold stand and decided to open up a company.
Looking back at this point in my life I didn’t appreciate or quite frankly understand that moment in my fathers’ life. How he felt, the challenge of reinventing oneself, the stress of having a family to care for, etc. I just knew he was tough as nails, he’s always been a superhero in my eyes, and would figure it out. Worried, I was not.
And figure it out he did.
In the middle of the largest economic downturn of our lives my father chose to become an entrepreneur starting a business in executive and small business coaching. He vowed never to return to corporate America to work for another man/woman as this time he was working towards his own dreams under his own rules.
At the ripe and spry age of 51 he became an entrepreneur. He hustled; he got out and met with people 3-4 times a day. He shook hands and kissed babies, maybe not so much on the baby side but I’m telling you he worked hard. He outworked even me, someone at the time half his age. His determination and mindset was flawless, at least it was from the outside. What’s just as impressive is that our family, mainly my sister and I, never saw him sweat. He was starting a business from scratch, something he had not done before and was doing it with the poise of a statesman.
It didn’t come easy but sure enough my fathers’ business eventually started to grow. He leveraged relationships, made new ones, offered a niche service and delivered impeccable results. He kept his word and delivered the goods. Nothing in life comes easy or quick for that matter and my fathers’ story is no different.
Fast forward, both my sister and I are entrepreneurs who have started our own businesses from scratch following in our fathers’ footsteps. I must give my father credit because he showed our family that you can be successful and start a business from scratch, it just takes time, effort and the mindset to see it through. As a result I was encouraged to follow my own dream, just like my father did.
I’ve learned a lot from my father and the experience he went through some 10 years ago. I’ve learned that age is just a number. Your mindset is what will carry you through. I’ve also learned the importance of having a support system to help you along the way. That credit goes entirely to my mother who stuck by him and continues to do so today. Lastly, I learned that taking risks in life is important. If we constantly live saying ‘what if’ we run the chance of missing out on a lot of rewarding experiences. If we are going to make a bold step in life the best way to go about that is by giving all of ourselves to it. That’s a choice, one we can exercise freely.
Today my father, Steve Smith, runs a successful executive and small business coaching company. I see firsthand what he does for his clients and am continually amazed at what he’s doing to inspire, impact and develop other people not just professionally but also personally. As if that wasn’t enough he’s having fun doing it as he lives the American dream.
Honored. Humbled. Appreciated. Dad.
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.