MONEY Jobs

Why It’s Still Hard to Find the Job You Really Want

workers at construction site
Don Mason—Gallery Stock

The U.S. economy is adding jobs at a surprisingly fast pace. They just might not be the ones you want.

The U.S. added 321,000 new jobs in November, according to the Labor Department. Although unemployment remained unchanged at 5.8%, the new jobs number beat most economists’ estimates. The strong results follow news on Tuesday that the economy grew at a 3.9% clip in the third quarter. Combined with the preceding period, that represents the fastest six-month expansion in more than a decade.

And yet the job market still feels sluggish for many middle-income job seekers, or those looking for a job that’s better than what they’ve got now.

The problem is that the post-recession economy is still better at producing marginal jobs—think retail and food service gigs—than the comparatively well-paying construction, manufacturing, and government jobs that let middle-class people buy homes and support their families.

That’s led to what some call a “low-wage recovery.” As recently as August, the National Employment Law Project, a labor group, calculated that 41% of job growth in the previous year was in low-wage industries, compared with just 26% in middle-wage industries.

A look at Friday’s numbers suggests that dynamic starting to change, but slowly.

The U.S. added 50,000 more retail jobs in November. There were also 27,000 additional jobs in bars and restaurants.

That kind of growth outpaced growth in sectors like construction, which added 20,000 jobs, and government, which added just 7,000. One bright spot was manufacturing. Economists have long warned this sector, hobbled by trends like automation and competition from low wage countries, isn’t ever likely resume it’s former stature. It’s been making something of comeback nonetheless: 28,000 manufacturing jobs were created in November.

Moody’s Analytics economist Ryan Sweet argues the jobs picture will steadily improve for middle income workers. On Thursday, he forecast construction hiring would continue to show gains in 2015 and 2016, driven in part by the housing market, where supply is getting tight again—Moody’s Analytics recently estimated rental vacancy rates at 20-year lows. Meanwhile, steadily improving GDP should replenish state and local tax coffers, allowing governments to start hiring again. Even Detroit, one of the recession’s biggest victims, has seen its prospects improve. Pointing to low oil prices, Sweet cited a forecast that automakers could sell 17 million cars next year.

These are all the kinds of trends you’d expect to see in a recovery—the surprise is how many years it has taken to get to this point.

 

TIME Demographics

4 Ways Millennials Have It Worse Than Their Parents

millenial money
Adrian Samson—Getty Images

The latest Census numbers show Americans aged 18 to 34 struggling worse than their parents did in the '80s

Millennials make less money, are more likely to live in poverty and have lower rates of employment than their parents did at their ages 20 and 30 years ago.

That’s the bleak assessment from the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest American Community Survey numbers Thursday, which paint a financially disheartening portrait of Americans aged 18 to 34 who are still trying to rebound from the Great Recession.

The survey largely shows that millennials are worse off than the same age group in 1980, 1990 and 2000 when looking at almost every major economic indicator:

1. Median income
Millennials earned roughly $33,883 a year on average between 2009 and 2013 compared with $35,845 in 1980 and $37,355 in 2000 (all in 2013 inflation-adjusted dollars).

(MORE: American Women are Waiting to Have Kids)

2. Leaving home
More than 30% of millennials live with at least one parent compared to about 23% in 1980, largely because they can’t get a job.

3. Employment
Only about 65% of millennials are currently working compared with more than 70% in 1990

4. Poverty
Almost 20% live in poverty compared with about 14% in 1980.

But it’s not all bad news. The new Census numbers show that young Americans are much more diverse and educated than previous generations. About 22% have a bachelor’s degree or higher (up from 16% in 1980), and a quarter have grown up speaking a language other than English at home (up from 10% in 1980).

And possibly the most interesting statistic in the new numbers? A little over 2% of those aged 18 to 34 are veterans, compared with almost 10% in 1980.

Read next: Millennials Are Mooches…and Other Money Myths

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: December 3

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. The Obamas should consider teaching in an urban public school after 2016.

By Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post

2. Tech journalism needs to grow up.

By Michael Brendan Dougherty in The Week

3. Despite conventional wisdom to the contrary, the surge strategy didn’t end the war in Iraq. We shouldn’t try it again against ISIS.

By Daniel L. Davis in The American Conservative

4. Adjusting outdated rules for overtime could give middle class wages a valuable boost.

By Nick Hanauer in PBS News Hour’s Making Sense

5. A new solar power device can collect energy even on cloudy days and from reflected lunar light.

By Tuan C. Nguyen in Smithsonian Magazine

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Economy

2 in 5 Young Americans Don’t Want a Job

Mid adult man sitting on sofa using computer game control
Kathleen Finlay—Image Source/Getty Images

Analysis shows increase in the percentage of teenagers and twenty-somethings outside the labor force

Nearly 40% of people in the United States ages 16 to 24 say that they don’t want a job, accounting for a sizable portion of the 92 million Americans who are currently outside the labor force, according to a new analysis of labor statistics.

The figures do not include young people who aren’t working, but are actively seeking employment. About 10% of Americans aged 20 to 24 and 19% of those aged 16 to 19 are considered unemployed, which means they are actively seeking work.

According to Pew Research Center analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, 39.4% of men and women aged 16 to 24 are outside the labor force over the first 10 months of 2014. That’s up from 29.5% in 2000, the steepest rise of any age group and one that pre-dates the recent financial crisis.

The U.S. unemployment hit 5.8% last month, the lowest number since 2008.

TIME Economy

Hurray! Americans Are Quitting Their Jobs

US Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen attends a conference of central bankers hosted by the Bank of France in Paris
U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen attends a conference of central bankers hosted by the Bank of France in Paris Nov. 7, 2014 Charles Platiau—Reuters

Highest quitting rate since 2008 is a key indicator of rosier economic times

In good news for the U.S. economy, the Labor Department reported that 2.8 million workers, or 2% of U.S. employees, voluntarily left their jobs in September — the fastest rate since 2008.

It might sound strange, but Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chair, has zeroed in on the quits rate as a progress marker for returning to a healthy labor market, reports Reuters.

The 2007-09 recessions saw a decrease in the quits rate, with most workers not optimistic enough about the economy to seek opportunities elsewhere. Analysts feared that this had created wage stagnation.

Although joblessness has been decreasing, the lack of worker turnover meant employers had no reason to increase salaries. But according to this latest report, hiring rates are now increasing, giving people more employment options.

The report also highlighted that the job openings rate has fallen, but still remained above pre-recession levels. In the first week of November, the Labor Department reported 278,000 claims for unemployment benefits from the state.

However, “this increase is nothing to worry about,” Ian Shepherdson, a Pantheon Macroeconomic economist, told Reuters, explaining that the claim figure has remained under 300,000 for nine consecutive weeks.

[Reuters]

TIME

Economy Adds 214,000 Jobs in October, Unemployment Rate Drops to 5.8%

Jobseekers wait to talk to a recruiter at the Colorado Hospital Association's health care career event in Denver, Oct. 13, 2014.
Jobseekers wait to talk to a recruiter at the Colorado Hospital Association's health care career event in Denver, Oct. 13, 2014. Rick Wilking—Reuters

Unemployment rate drops to lowest level since July 2008

The Labor Department released last month’s employment figures Friday morning, and the report shows that the U.S. labor market has continued to post steady gains while some stubborn weak points still exist. Here are some key points from the October jobs report.

What you need to know: October was the 56th straight month of private-sector job gains in the U.S., and monthly gains have averaged about 227,000 so far this year. The job market has been steadily improving, which is good news. However, on the downside, hourly wages have struggled to make gains and the number of long-term unemployed is still almost 50% higher than it was before the recession hit.

The Federal Reserve, which had continually worried that the labor market is not as healthy as it hoped nearly seven years after the start of the Great Recession, eased up on its view following its meeting last week. The Fed issued this cautiously worded update on its outlook:

“On balance, a range of labor market indicators suggests that underutilization of labor resources is gradually diminishing.”

The big numbers: The U.S. labor market added 214,000 jobs in October, falling shy of economists’ estimates of 235,000 jobs, according to Bloomberg data. The unemployment rate dropped unexpectedly to 5.8% —its lowest level since July 2008 — compared to an anticipated 5.9%. Private employers added 209,000 jobs.

Hourly wages ticked up by 2 cents last month, while the number of long-term unemployed was little changed at 2.9 million.

What you may have missed: October’s gains keep the U.S. labor market on track for its best annual performance since 1999. That year an average 265,000 Americans found jobs every month. The October job additions are a pick-up from the recent three-month average of 224,000 jobs.

The continued growth comes amid global worries of slowing economic growth, although there’s little indication that it has spilled over into the U.S. labor market.

“It all speaks to the story that the U.S. can sustain pretty strong growth even when there are concerns about growth slowing in places like China and the euro zone,” said Jeff Greenberg, a senior economist at JP Morgan Private Bank in New York.

Some of the biggest job gains last month went to the professional and business, and healthcare sectors, which added 37,000 and 25,000 jobs, respectively. Retail hiring has also accelerated as stores geared up for the holiday season ahead, and service-sector employment, which increased by 12,000, is at a nine-year high, according to a note from Goldman Sachs economist Kris Dawsey.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

Read next: Let’s Fix It: Blame Unemployment on the Color Blue

TIME France

French President François Hollande May Not Stand for Re-Election

France President Hollande
French President François Hollande poses on a TV set prior to the start of a French channel TF1 broadcast show, in Aubervilliers, outside Paris, on Nov. 6, 2014 Martin Bureau—AP

He cites his failure to temper the nation's spiraling unemployment during his term in office

France’s President François Hollande said Thursday that he may not stand for re-election in 2017 if he fails to cut unemployment by the end of his term.

“If I cannot manage it by the end of my term in office, do you really think I would go before the French in 2017?” he said in a televised interview with French TV channel TF1.

Hollande admitted that it was a mistake to promise that he could bring down the rise in joblessness, which currently stands at 11%.

But the 60-year-old vowed to “go to the end” to reform France’s weak economy.

A poll released Thursday shows the Socialist Party leader has an approval rating of just 12%.

MONEY The Economy

The Stock Market Loses a Big Crutch as the Fed Ends ‘Quantitative Easing’

The Fed has concluded its asset-purchasing program thanks to an improving labor market. Here's what QE3 has meant to investors and the economy.

After spending trillions of dollars on bond purchases since the end of the Great Recession — to keep interest rates low to boost spending, lending, and investments — the Federal Reserve ended its stimulus program known as quantitative easing.

The central bank’s decision to stop buying billions of dollars of Treasury and mortgage-related bonds each month comes as the U.S. economy has shown signs of recent improvement.

U.S. gross domestic product grew an impressive 4.6% last quarter. And while growth dropped at the start of this year, thanks to an unusually bad winter, the economy expanded at annual pace of 4.5% and 3.5% in the second half of 2013.

Meanwhile, employers have added an average of 227,000 jobs this year and the unemployment rate rests at a post-recession low of 5.9%. It was at 7.8% in September 2012, when this round of quantitative easing, known as QE3, began.

What this means for interest rates
Even with QE over, the Fed is unlikely to start raising short-term interest rates until next year, at the earliest.

In part due to the strengthening dollar and weakening foreign economies, inflation has failed to pick up despite the Fed’s unprecedented easy monetary policy.

And there remains a decent bit of slack in the labor market. For instance, there are still a large number of Americans who’ve been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer (almost 3 million), and the labor-force participation rate has continued its decade long decline. Even the participation rate of those between 25 to 54 is lower than it was pre-recession.

What this means for investors
For investors, this marks the end of a wild ride that saw equity prices rise, bond yields remain muted, and hand wringing over inflation expectations that never materialized.

S&P 500:
Equities enjoyed an impressive run up after then-Fed Chair Ben Bernanke announced the start of a third round of bond buying in September 2012. Of course the last two times the Fed ended quantitative easing, equities faced sell-offs. From the Wall Street Journal:

The S&P 500 rose 35% during QE1 (Dec. 2008 through March 2010), gained 10% during QE2 (Nov. 2010 through June 2011) and has gained about 30% during QE3 (from Sept. 2012 through this month), according to S&P Dow Jones Indices.

Three months after QE1 ended, the S&P 500 fell 12%. And three months after QE2 concluded, the S&P 500 was down 14%.

 

Stocks

10-year Treasury yields:

As has been the case for much of the post-recession recovery, U.S. borrowing costs have remained low thanks to a lack of strong consumer demand — and the Fed’s bond buying. Many investors paid dearly for betting incorrectly on Treasuries, including the Bill Gross who recently left his perch at Pimco for Janus.

Bonds

10-year breakeven inflation rate:

A sign that inflation failed to take hold despite unconventionally accommodative monetary policy is the so-called 10-year breakeven rate, which measures the difference between the yield on 10-year Treasuries and Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, or TIPS. The higher the gap, the higher the market’s expectation for inflation. As you can see, no such expectation really materialized.

BreakEven

Inflation:

Despite concern that the Fed’s policy would lead to run-away inflation, we remain mired in a low-inflation environment.

fredgraph

Unemployment Rate:

The falling unemployment rate has been a real a bright spot for the economy. If you look at a broader measure of employment, one which takes into account those who’ve just given up looking for a job and part-time workers who want to work full-time, unemployment is elevated, but declining.

unemployment rate

Compared to the economic plight of other developed economies, the U.S. looks to be in reasonable shape. That in part is thanks to bold monetary policy at a time of stagnant growth.

Indeed, many economists now argue that the European Central Bank, faced with an economy that’s teetering on another recession, ought to take a page from the Fed’s playbook and try its own brand of quantitative easing.

TIME

4 Ways to Go From Underemployed to Getting the Job You Want

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People standing in line at Job and Training Fair Yellow Dog Productions—Getty Images

Marty Nemko holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology from UC Berkeley and is a career and personal coach.

What to do about America's employers eliminating, automating and offshoring jobs

Most of us have heard of:
  • College graduates doing menial work. A caller to my radio program last week graduated a year ago from the University of California, Berkeley, and the best job he’s been able to land is pizza delivery person. Alas, according to a report in The Atlantic, he’s far from alone; 53.6% of college graduates under 25 are doing work they could have done without college or are unemployed.
  • Middle-age professionals are losing their job: It was offshored, automated or, if s/he was lucky, it was converted to a “consultant” position in which they’re hired only for a project and with minimal benefits after which they’re back pounding the pavement. According to an AARP report, three years after the recession, 45% of the 50- to 64-year-olds surveyed reported a decline in income.
  • Itinerant professors. Colleges tout the importance of treating labor fairly, yet they don’t practice what they preach. Increasingly, they replace tenure-track faculty with people hired, without benefits, to teach just one or two courses at pittance pay. As a result, countless highly and expensively educated Ph.D.s must drive from university to university to cobble together a living smaller than they could have made without any degree, let alone a Ph.D. An Inside Higher Ed/Gallup poll found 65% of college provosts said their institution relies “significantly on non-tenure-track faculty for instruction.”

America’s employers–for-profit, non-profit, and government alike–are eliminating, automating and offshoring as many jobs as possible. And the remaining jobs are, ever more often, converted into part-time or temp work. This is the dejobbing of America

The broader picture

It’s tempting to feel things are better because the unemployment rate is down, but that masks the fact that many people have stopped looking for work. Those people aren’t counted in the unemployment rate. Nor does the unemployment rate consider people who are working but earning less income.

These statistics are more revealing: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the labor participation rate, the percentage of adults 16 to 64 that are employed or actively looking for work, is 62.7%, the lowest since early 1978.

And those who are working are, on average, making less. An analysis of government data on income and poverty last month found that, “After adjusting for inflation, U.S. median household income is still 8 percent lower than it was before the recession, 9 percent lower than at its peak in 1999.”

The numbers hide the human toll. Work is key to people’s psychological as well as financial well-being. Without work, in addition to not being able to pay for food, shelter, transportation and health care, you can feel useless.

Solutions for the individual

Personally, I love the liberal arts. I enjoy reading novels, looking at paintings, listening to classical music and contemplating life’s Big Questions. Alas, we’re living in times in which those seem less valued than they used to be. A report this month by the National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that the four majors most in demand by employers at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral level are business, engineering, computer and information sciences, and sciences, with liberal arts trailing badly—just above agriculture and natural resources. Another survey in that NACE report found that employers are demanding even more problem solving expertise and quantitative analysis skills.

So I bear the bad news that, to avoid long periods of un- and underemployment, you may have to ratchet up your game. And even if you do, you may need to use more aggressive techniques to land a job than not long ago. A pretty, hired-gun-written resume, LinkedIn profile and cover letter may not cut it any more. But these things might help:

  • In answering ads, include a job sample: a proposal for what you might do if hired, a white-paper on a topic of compelling interest to the boss and/or a portfolio of relevant work.
  • Try to get in through the back door. The front door (answering want ads) has a long line of wannabes. So try to connect with people with the power to hire you when they’re not advertising a job. Write an email asking for advice. They may create a job or at least foot-in-the-door project for you. Ask for a job, they’ll feel pressured and just give you advice or ignore your request.
  • Make an offer they can’t refuse. Offer to volunteer for a fixed amount of time. If after that, they like you, they agree to hire you. If not, they got free labor with no strings attached.
  • Not for the faint-of-heart: Walk in. For example, a client wanted the security of a federal job. So at 8:00 AM, when all the federal workers were arriving, she asked a friendly looking one if she might get her through security by saying, “She’s with me.” Two said no but the third said yes. She then schmoozed her way around the building and got useful inside information, which enabled her to write a great application for a position, which she then got.

Macro solutions

  • Assistance Army. Companies, nonprofits, and government should collaborate in creating an “Assistance Army.” Each sector would create societally beneficial jobs that even many low-skilled workers could do: for example, student mentor, community garden raised-bed builder, health-care system docent and mural creator to brighten gritty neighborhoods. Additionally, the three sectors would develop a campaign to encourage individuals to hire personal aides: tutors for their children, housekeeper, personal assistant and technology explainer for themselves, elder companion for their older relative, etc.
  • A world-class K-16 entrepreneurship curriculum. Permanent jobs get created mainly by starting and expanding private-sector businesses. Government jobs require tax dollars, which thus reduce private-sector jobs. To increase business creation, we must go beyond the born entrepreneurs, hence the proposed entrepreneurship curriculum. That should consist heavily of students creating and running businesses, plus online simulations, in which students get instant feedback on their business decisions.
  • Expanded apprenticeship programs. Despite the rampant un- and underemployment among college graduates and the relative shortage of skilled (and offshore-proof) blue-collar jobs, we’re sending young people a message that everyone should go to college, even students that struggled in high school. In fact, according to Clifford Adelman, senior statistician at the U.S. Department of Education, if you graduated in the bottom 40% of your high school class, your chance of graduating college is less than one in four, even if given 8 ½ years. And if you graduate, it’s likely to be from a third-tier college with a major that is likely to make employers yawn, thus setting you up to be one of the aforementioned 53.6% of college graduates doing work they could have done without college or who are unemployed.

Instead, we need to expand our system of apprenticeships so it’s a major initiative, like that in Germany and in England: a partnership between the schools and employers that creates a high-quality experience for high-schoolers whose track record indicates they’re more likely to succeed in a practical curriculum than by calculating calculus integrals, deciphering the intricacies of Shakespeare and interpreting stochastic processes.

A perhaps hyperbolic call to action.

Good jobs are at the heart of a satisfied citizenry and viable society. Our rapidly dejobbing America is prioritizing short-term profit over long-term survival. Many people consider climate change our most urgent threat. I believe dejobbing is an even greater one.

Marty Nemko is an award-winning career coach, writer, speaker and public radio host specializing in career/workplace issues and education reform. His writings and radio programs are archived on www.martynemko.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Jobs

Unemployment Rate Falls to 5.9% on Strong Job Growth

The unemployment rate is the lowest since 2008.

The economy added 248,000 jobs in September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, beating analyst expectations and improving significantly over August’s disappointing numbers. The bureau’s last monthly release showed the U.S. only adding 142,000 jobs, the fewest in eight months. Friday’s data could help quell any fears of a worsening employment climate.

Today’s nonfarm payroll report also showed the unemployment rate falling to 5.9%, down from 6.1% in August and the lowest since July of 2008. The labor force participation rate — the percentage of the workforce that is either employed or actively looking for work — remained mostly static at 62.7% as older Americans continue to drop out of the work force. The unemployment rate has dropped by 0.7% in 2014, but still remains about 1.5 percentage points higher than its pre-crisis lows.

 

Despite an increase in hiring, average hourly earnings did not budge. Wages growth was static in September, and hourly wages have increased just 2% over the year.

Economists and investors have been closely watching monthly jobs numbers, partly to glean insight into when the Federal Reserve will begin to raise interest rates. Fed chair Janet Yellen has made employment growth a key factor in determining monetary policy, and repeatedly cited labor market slack as a reason for keeping rates at historic lows. However, as MONEY’s Taylor Tepper notes, Yellen is unlikely to raise interest rates in the near future due to inconsistent employment numbers and concerns over a shaky global economy, particularly in Europe.

MONEY’s Pat Regnier points out that while consumer spending has largely recovered since the housing crash, construction and government spending has not. Until public spending begins to return to pre-recession levels, job growth may continue to be especially sluggish. September showed little increase in government spending.

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