‘Job seekers are in the driver’s seat:’ Search engine founder warns workforce is changing

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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Employers looking to fill positions are struggling to find the talent they need, which means workers can choose.

Yes, a lot has changed in the workforce since the start of 2020. For this week’s jobs report, WRAL TechWire wanted to get a sense of the macro impacts the pandemic has had on the landscape of employment in the United States.

We spoke with Andrew Hunter, co-founder of job search engine Adzuna, about some of the trends he’s seeing on his platform and how the job market has changed during the pandemic. The site currently lists more than 4 million jobs across the United States, including 32,229 jobs in Wake County, 16,633 in Raleigh and nearly 11,000 in County Durham, from Sunday afternoon.

Hunter shared his perspective on the general trends shaping the national job market, recent developments, the sectors and skills that are seeing the greatest demand, how employers compete for talent, and how applicants jobs and employers can stay ahead of emerging trends.

Jobs Report: LinkedIn Lists Over 57,000 Open Jobs in Triangle

For more, check out our exclusive Q&A. (Comments have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.)

  • What changes have you noticed in the job market over the past 14 months or so?

This is a very different job market than 14 months ago. We are witnessing a major shift in power. At the height of the pandemic, many people were concerned about job security and some industries shut down or slowed down completely, leading to layoffs and furloughs. Now job seekers are in the driver’s seat again and companies are in a battle for talent with a significant talent shortage. As a result, companies are going all out to attract candidates, and candidates have the power to be more selective about where they apply and interview.

But despite the return of job opportunities, the number of people leaving the labor market and taking a career break is higher than normal. The OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] suggests [in its 2021 Employment Outlook report] Employment in the United States could be below pre-pandemic levels through the end of 2023. After months of uncertainty, COVID-related pressures and low job security, the Burnout affects many industries, not just front-line workers, but also white-collar workers who juggle less than ideal working conditions.

We are seeing a high number of quits fueled by workers looking to change careers or simply need a break. Many have accumulated savings over the past year and are in no rush to return to work anytime soon. As a result, we have a labor market with a high number of vacancies but a smaller than usual pool of job seekers – and it could take some time to restore balance.

  • What was the catalyst for the trends you see now?

These trends are the culmination of learnings employees have learned from the past year, whether it’s a year of remote work or a year of in-person employment for essential workers. Health and wellness have become a priority for many people, inspiring a greater focus on work/life balance. Many have been forced to recognize that life is short and prioritize job satisfaction, balance and family over work that does not bring them joy.

  • How has the employment landscape in the United States changed with respect to in-demand industries or skills?

The distribution of opportunities has been disrupted since the start of the pandemic. Early on, we saw significant hiring in the logistics and warehousing sector, likely fueled by the growth of e-commerce and an increase in online deliveries. In fact, data from Adzuna reveals that jobs in this sector are 206% above pre-pandemic levels, with more than 925,000 vacancies currently.

The pandemic has also caused extremely low interest rates, resulting in an indirect increase in the real estate sector as well as labor and trade professionals through home improvements. For 11 consecutive weeks, we have seen more than 100,000 vacancies in trade and construction.

Meanwhile, sectors like health care, nursing and social work have seen consistently high job openings, with a combination of high turnover, high demand and a shortage of skilled workers creating a continued need for new talent. Finally, the pandemic has forced many businesses to switch to remote working, accelerating the adoption of technology across many industries. Digital and software skills are in greater demand than ever.

While these may be momentary changes, they are also indicative of the overall demand for jobs we will see in the future. Some of the most in-demand roles today and over the next decade will be as registered nurses, software developers, delivery drivers, social workers, and skilled trades.

  • What does this mean for employers?

We’ve seen the dismantling of bustling office perks like free food or laundry services, replaced by a greater focus on health and wellness. Employers are working harder to retain workers, creating comprehensive benefit packages. These will be expected by candidates and will forever change the way employers build their compensation packages.

From the perspective of employers, digital skills are particularly in demand. The combination of changing skills needs and strong demand for candidates has propelled another positive change: companies are paying more attention to skills than to formal education.

  • Are there any new trends or themes that you have observed in the last month in particular?

Job opportunities in restaurants were initially reduced by pandemic restrictions, but they are now recovering and companies are struggling to fill these roles. We’ve seen the restaurant industry respond with creative ways to compete for talent, including pay rises, childcare and signing bonuses, mimicking big tech offers – a trend which has since spread to many industries that are struggling to hire.

McDonald’s is the latest major brand to offer a caregiver offer, introducing emergency childcare as a way to entice parents back to work. [According to U.S. Census data,] about 1 in 4 American children, or 22 million, live in single-parent families, meaning that adding care supports has the potential to open up the job market in a major way.

  • What can job seekers and employers do to stay ahead of these trends?

Employers who find a way to offer job seekers a chance to upskill and adapt to the future of the job market will stand out from the crowd. Workers are more aware than ever of how quickly the labor market can change and how quickly they may need to adapt. They are looking for employers who can support them in these transitions. Flexibility is also key, allowing workers to balance their careers with other responsibilities.

For job seekers, it’s worth looking at in-demand industries as a starting point and seeing if they might fit into broader career ambitions. Roles such as software developers or registered nurses require specific skills and qualifications, but other in-demand roles such as delivery drivers for warehouse workers are more accessible – these could offer good options for flexible work while retraining in other sectors. The general labor shortage also means that now is the time to know your worth and that you need to be sure to negotiate the salary when you start a new job.

Career fairs in the coming weeks will seek to match Triangle workers and businesses


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