Ask the Headhunter: The jobs news is great! But how are you really doing?

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Unemployment insurance stabilizes the housing market in times of crisis, according to new work from the National Bureau of Economic Research. Photo by Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg.

Photo by Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg.

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.

In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


Question: Have you been reading the jobs news? Am I crazy, or do people really believe unemployment is down and pay is up? That there is suddenly a job for anyone who wants it? That all our troubles are over? Man, sign me up for a new job for two times what I was making when I had a job!

Nick Corcodilos: I took time off during the holidays, but the news kept coming hot and heavy from the U.S. Department of Labor and associated pundits and experts: You should stop complaining about jobs and salaries. Everything is great!

READ MORE: 4 economists evaluate Obama’s economic legacy

I’m sure you’re reading the same good news, but all I want to know is, does this reflect your experience with the job market and employers?

In the past few days, the Department of Labor reported:

  • “Unemployment rates were significantly lower in November in 18 states and stable in 32 states and the District of Columbia…”
  • “The national unemployment rate was 4.6 percent in November, down from 4.9 percent in October, and 0.4 percentage point lower than in November 2015.”

Fewer people are unemployed! (Still, employers complain there is a talent shortage. See “Half-Assed Recruiting: Why employers can’t find talent.”)

Recent Bloomberg reports tell us:

  • “The 4.7 percent jobless rate remains close to a nine-year low,even with a tick up last month.”
  • We’re seeing “enduring wage gains as labor market tightens.”

You’re getting paid more, and employers are working harder to hire you!

  • “Worker pay rises at fastest pace since end of last recession.”
  • “Fiscal stimulus would stoke further gains as labor [is] scarce.”
  • “Average hourly earnings jumped by 2.9 percent in the 12 months through December, the most since the last recession ended in June 2009.”
  • “Workers in almost every category, from mining and construction to retail and education, saw paychecks rise from November.”

But who’s getting more pay? (See “Job promotion or more work for less pay?”)

Michael Feroli, JPMorgan’s chief economist, says:

  • “I expect to see continued acceleration in wages this year.”

And get this: Labor shortages may become more common. Employers are going to be begging you to take a job! I hope that makes you feel better if you’re facing a shortage of exactly the one job you need to pay your bills.

But then, there are the gotchas from the Department of Labor reported by Bloomberg. The Department of Labor touts higher levels of participation in the job market, but doesn’t try to explain why the uptake isn’t so hot:

  • “More Americans joined the labor force but had not yet found jobs.”

Oops. And try this double-talk on for size:

  • “The number of people who were jobless and gave up looking for work declined to a three-month low…” but “One caveat: fewer people who were already in the labor force but unemployed were able to find jobs.”

We discussed what may be behind this conundrum in “Employment In America: WTF?” The employment system itself seems to hinder or even prevent the matching of workers to open jobs.

The Associated Press is right in there with its own stories:

  • Since 2009, “the job market is in infinitely better shape.The unemployment rate is 4.7 percent. Jobs have been added for 75 straight months, the longest such streak on record.”
  • But… “The proportion of Americans with jobs … dropped a full percentage point.”

Apply the grammatical logic tool to that one and you get… More Americans are without jobs!

  • Under President Obama, “Hiring has been solid yet still hasn’t kept up with population growth.”
  • “…many workers, especially less-educated men, have become discouraged about finding jobs with decent pay and have stopped looking.”

Yes, that means many, many Americans are screwed, and it seems we’re being told they’re not educated enough to parse those sentences to glean the economic reality. When unemployed and under-employed people keep trying to pay for food, do you think at some point they’ll take up their pitchforks and torches?

And don’t miss this troubling fact: The “routine work” that pays middle-income wages is disappearing. But the good news is those of you doing “higher- and lower-paying jobs” should have no trouble finding work! Tech jobs have “soared” 42 percent. Hotel and food service jobs have “jumped” 19 percent!

Apply the grammatical logic tool to that one and you get… middle-class America can’t find a job!

  • More good news: “Over the past year, average hourly pay has risen 2.9 percent, the healthiest increase in seven years.”
  • But in a “robust economy,” the Associated Press reports, pay gains would be more like 3.5 percent.

There’s more, but your under-paid, under-fed or unemployed (or under-employed) brain probably couldn’t take it.

Let’s stop pretending

Readers complain to me that the news reports (and the government reports) about employment too often seem to contradict one another. While the government, economists, banks and pundits tell a story that makes heads spin, I think the wisdom about all this is in the crowd.

READ MORE: Column: Work means everything to us — and hereafter it can’t

The people living, succeeding, failing, giving up, dropping out, scraping by and dying in this economy have a clearer picture of what’s really going on than what’s being reported.

How are you doing?

January of a New Year is a good time to sweep away the news and ask you — How are you doing in all this? I think we all want to know what’s really going on in our economy and job market.

  • Does this news reflect your experience?
  • Are you finding more jobs — good-paying jobs — are begging to be filled?
  • Are you getting paid more money?
  • Are employers hiring you more quickly at higher salaries?
  • If you already have a job, has your boss increased your salary to avoid losing you?
  • What’s really going on with respect to jobs, employment and pay?

Dear Readers: I don’t think we’ll sort this out, but we can do a better job of discussing the realities of the job market than all those confusing news reports do! How are you doing in this “great job market?”


Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2016 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

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