2020 Starts with Record Low Unemployment, Stagnant Wages...What's Next?

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Looking back on 2019, a few of the biggest stories in the US labor market were the low unemployment rate, the lack of wage growth, and big changes to the gig economy. Let’s look back at the best of the coverage of this issue in the news, and using Talroo’s own data, see what the numbers are telling us, and what we might expect in 2020.

THE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IS AT A RECORD LOW
Ghosting isn't just for online dating anymore

The big story, unsurprisingly, continued to be the low unemployment rate. Since the 2007-2008 crash, unemployment has been steadily falling. In fact, 2018 saw the number of available jobs outnumbering the unemployed. This trend continued and widened in 2019, with 1.4 million more job openings than people to fill them. While this is great for the economy, it poses a challenge for hiring managers. In addition to the challenge of finding employees, there’s the issue of retention. “Ghosting” isn’t just for online dating anymore. The labor market is so strong that employees have a lot of options – especially in the service sector, which is the majority of the American workforce. These options mean an increased need to provide benefits, flexible hours, and career advancement to hold on to those employees.

SO WHY ARE WAGES STAGNANT?

But if the job market is so great, why aren’t wages growing faster? Conventional economic wisdom would say that a lower supply of workers would mean more competitive wages. But that isn’t happening. Even economists are puzzled, which is a little scary. A few theories have been floated. One is rising health care costs. If employers have to cover this cost, it makes sense that wages may suffer. Another is stock buybacks. If a company is reinvesting money into its stock and not its workforce, wages are likely to stagnate, right? Maybe. Maybe not. Or maybe it depends on who you voted for... but that’s none of my business. Moving on... maybe it’s globalization? American workers aren’t just competing with one another – they're competing with workers all over the world, many of whom are not paid according to US standards. The likely answer is that all of these factors and more can and probably have affected the low wage growth.

Warehouse workers

THE GIG ECONOMY HITS A BUMP IN THE ROAD

One sector that has been all over the news this year is the gig economy. Flush with investment, Uber exploded onto the scene in the last decade, becoming more ubiquitous with each passing year. Lyft, Thumbtack, Upwork, and many more followed suit, and before long, the term “gig economy” was coined. Promising competitive wages, easy entry, and above all else, flexibility, this new type of work was looking like a good option for millions of Americans. But this year, the narrative changed. Uber and Lyft had massive layoffs, and those competitive wages started to shrink. This change, plus the drama with WeWork, points to a broader shift in investor mindset: it’s not JUST about growth of user base – at some point, a business model that gets the company to profitability is essential. The gig economy is a huge force in our economy, and is here to stay – but it will be interesting to see if the big players can make up this slump in 2020.

TALROO INSIGHTS™ NUMBERS

Talroo has access to billions of job seeker queries each month, plus millions of live jobs. This means we have a treasure trove of data to see how the economy, time of year, and labor market news is affecting what job seekers are looking for – and why. Our award-winning Insights™ dashboard uses this data to help TA professionals make smarter decisions, and ultimately hire the talent needed to keep businesses running smoothly. 

On-demand jobs fell off the top 10 searches in 2019Talroo specializes in high-volume, mostly hourly positions, and those industries reflect our most-searched titles for 2019. When we looked at those top job searches, we noticed a few trends that make a lot of sense, given the economic climate. First, warehouse jobs were the most searched of all industries. Second, on-demand jobs fell off the top 10 searches in 2019 – it had been #6 in 2018. Why? The most-searched companies list might provide an answer. Amazon was the most searched company name in Talroo’s network in 2019 – by nearly double over last year. Amazon has been quickly and loudly expanding its logistics services in the past year. That means increased job opportunity all over the US, including areas where residents may not have a lot of opportunity otherwise. Stable logistics, warehouse, and customer service jobs seem to be proving more enticing than the on-demand gig economy. 

Top 10 Most Searched for Jobs in Talroo's Network

Want to see how the trends are shaping up in 2020? Keep up with Talroo’s Insights™ dashboardFunctionality includes campaign performance metrics, bidding intelligence, talent supply data, and more. These numbers can tell customers how people are finding their jobs, where the talent is living and searching, and what companies are competing for the same talent – helping the customer spend budget more efficiently and stand out in a tight labor market. 

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Topics: Talent Acquisition

Updated January 7, 2020