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What Is The ‘Truth’ About Today’s Job Market?

Let’s look at U.S. recent history that leads us into today’s market.  

  • The Great Resignation (timing – started in early 2021) – this can be directly tied to the pandemic.  There were multiple reasons for this ‘trend’ but it came down to people who were working from home reassessing their relationship to work (as well as their personal lifestyles and relationships).  The result – from a search firm standpoint – was an immediate reaction from clients who needed to replace these key executive roles quickly.  We saw this trend last throughout 2022. 
  • Quiet Quitting (timing – started in March 2022) – this can be defined as people performing at the bare minimum on their job in order to keep their job.  People stopped working extra hours, coming in early or attending (in person) meetings that were considered optional.  Managers, not wanting to have openings in times where people were still resigning, did not always address this performance issue.  More ‘active’ performance management is now returning to the workplace.  Managers are also looking to improve worker engagement with the work, the employer, the people and in many cases, the physical office. 
  • Loud Layoffs (timing – started in late 2022) – these are job cuts, usually made by large and well-known employers, that make the news.  The ‘loud’ part, in addition to making headlines, usually includes large numbers of a high percentage (a 10% or greater cut) of the workforce. 

Does the unemployment number tell a story?

The unemployment rate is whatever you want it to be, so it seems.  (If you are ‘in transition’, it is 100% no matter what people tell you.)

  • U.S. – 3.9% (February, 2024)
  • Minnesota – 2.7% (preliminary – January, 2024)
  • Twin Cities – 3.0% (preliminary – January, 2024)
  • People 25 and older with a 4-year degree or higher – 2.2% (February, 2024)
  • The Employment Trends Index™ (ETI – from from The Conference Board) – it decreased in February, 2024; the report forecasts that "the labor market is likely to cool off, with modest job gains expected through Q3 and Q4 of 2024.” 

NOTE – there is no precise definition of ‘full employment’, but full employment was defined as 3 – 5% unemployment by Walter Heller, an influential economic advisor to President John F. Kennedy.  During the Obama administration, full employment was considered 4 – 6% unemployment.  

What are we seeing?

Search firms are a micro-version of a future economic indicator.  If we are busy, that is a generally positive sign for the job market for the next 3 – 6 months.  Abeln, Magy, Underberg & Associates works primarily with small to medium size private employers and non-profit organizations.  We do not typically work with the employers who are making the news with ‘loud layoffs’. 

Simply put, we are busy.  Companies are coming to us with strategically-focused expansion needs as well as key replacement position needs based on retirements or turnover.  We keep a pipeline list – searches we are hearing about (where organizations are considering us as a possible retained search resource for filling an executive role).  The pipeline list continues to grow weekly. 

What does that mean? 

Our conclusion – we are seeing a relatively strong job market and we anticipate it being reasonably strong/positive for the next few (3 – 6) months.  Does that mean finding a new position if you want or need one is easy?  No!  Are there openings out there?  Yes.  Our clients continue to be optimistic and are selectively replacing and/or adding key roles.  This answer is through the lens of the marketplace we work in (not the large company marketplace). 

We continue to post economic updates/data as information becomes available.

We do this through LinkedIn (through the Abeln, Magy, Underberg & Associates page and through David Magy’s page) as well as through Twitter (@David_Magy).  Follow us to keep up with the multiple datapoints we post each month. 

Let me know if you have questions.