02/18/2022 Jeni Kramer

Job Market Insights: February 2022

No, we don’t mind holding…

If we had to sum up the theme for 2022’s jobs so far, it might be ‘steady as she goes.’ For the first month of the year, active job listings in the U.S. were in a bit of a holding pattern, up just 0.3% over December. To observe any major movement in January, we really have to drill down to the occupation level.

There we uncover some hidden booms (shout out, Food Service and Computer and Mathematical occupations!) and also a few downward slides (don’t think we didn’t see you, Healthcare, Transportation and Supply Chain). But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves just yet – there’s too much else to cover!

If we zoom back out to the overall picture, the year-over-year comparison is quite interesting. Total active listings for January were at 5,672,975: that’s 43.8% more listings than in Jan 2021, and 47.5% more than in Jan 2020 (that’s in the before times, if you can recall).

The Omicron Effect

You can’t talk about January’s jobs without discussing the impact the latest Covid variant has had on the labor market. Two years into the pandemic, Omicron has brought infection rates to once unfathomable highs. In fact, on January 16th the CDC recorded a seven-day average of new infections of 780,000, nearly 6.5 times the previous month. But even with cases spiking in January, it seems Omicron hasn’t had a long term negative impact on employer demand. In the second week of January, the total weekly active job listings are more than 6.6 million, higher than any day from October to December.

Despite shorter term stress for employers caused by workers calling out sick throughout the month, a better than anticipated January jobs report from the Labor Dept. had economists in an optimistic mood. The 467,000 jobs added to the economy last month led economist Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics to comment in a research note, “Omicron, Schmomicron.” A strong statement indeed.

Some occupations on the rise

About those booms we mentioned earlier, in January only a few occupations had a jump in job listings among other otherwise uneventful numbers: Food Preparation and Serving; Installation, Maintenance, and Repair; Computer and Mathematical; as well as Management occupations all saw notable growth.

While these occupations continue to increase, the trendline looks much less positive for others. Specifically for occupations that have become almost emblematic of the pandemic itself like Healthcare and Technical occupations, as well as Transportation and Material Moving. The largest decline was observed in Office and Admin Support, where job listings dropped almost 6% for the month.

While these current trends are important to observe, it’s also reassuring when you can take a longer view. The Bureau of Labor Statistics gave forward-thinking job seekers just that with their report on the fastest growing jobs of the next decade. The list included renewable energy, technology and an outsized number of healthcare occupations grabbing spots in the top ten. So even though there may be some downward momentum for healthcare job listings presently, there’s massive growth expected through 2030.

Finding the balance

Overall, the labor market is still attempting to find some kind of balance between filling the massive backlog of available jobs and meeting the demands of a newly empowered workforce. For now, workers and job seekers hold on to the upper hand. According to a new BLS report, 24% of establishments increased pay or gave bonuses as a direct response to the pandemic. With high overall job openings (even amid Omicron), low layoffs, and skyhigh quit rates, we still sit smack dab in the midst of a historically tight labor market.

All eyes on Amazon

Once again, everyone is focused on the ultra-speedy online retailer, wondering how they are weathering difficulties like labor shortages and supply chain issues. When comparing Amazon’s job growth to some of their larger peers in the eCommerce and web services space, they seem to be doing well, with job listing growth outperforming Target, Walmart, and Alibaba.

So which other companies are likely to pull ahead in our post-pandemic landscape? While it’s difficult to say for certain, it’s likely to be those that take the evolving needs of their employees into consideration. That means remote work options when possible, in addition to competitive pay and benefits. It will be interesting to see whether companies use their innovative capabilities to tackle workforce concerns with the same enthusiasm they use to solve complex business issues. One thing is for sure, when they do, we all win!

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