The Midwest has a problem that just 5 years ago would have seemed ludicrous: too many jobs. While the nationwide unemployment rate is hovering around 4.1%, an already low number that hasn’t been since since the late 90s, states such as Iowa are in a situation where it is the businesses, not workers, who are clamoring for good labor. Closer to home, the city of Lincoln is even lower. Only around 5,000 work eligible individuals in Lincoln are unemployed, and the number continues to decline. Essentially, anyone who is looking for work will not have to look long.
If we expand the view to include the dozen or more states that comprise the Midwest, the situation gets even better (or worse, depending on your point of view). According to the WSJ, if every single individual searching for work was placed in an open position, almost 200,000 positions would still remain unfilled.
We are currently in an employee’s market vs an employer’s, meaning that, generally speaking, it is the employees that get to choose where they want to work, instead of the employers deciding who gets to work at their firm. For employees, this is fantastic. If an individual is working at say, an RV manufacturing facility in Elkhart, Indiana (another prime example of a midwestern city with “for hire” signs dotting the landscape), and three more down the street are each offering $100 dollar bonuses just for staying more than a couple weeks, that individual is going to have little motivation to stay put.
On the other hand, this is a worrying trend for businesses and employers. Many companies are having to come up with creative ways to keep their workers, such as offering huge sign-on bonuses, free healthcare, and even creating Google-esque rest and break rooms. Some industries are even hiring individuals from local prison populations with lighter sentences to fill open positions.
Since business is booming in many industries ranging from healthcare to manufacturing, any unfilled positions means lost production or service. In effect, a tight labor market can potentially lead to lost economic growth, as unfilled positions not only means less output by the company, but continued stretches of unfilled positions can lead to companies becoming hesitant to expand.
Fortunately for students looking for or soon-to-be looking for a job, the labor market at present is easier to break into than just a few years ago. Since tight labor markets generally equate to higher wages and salaries, coupled with college graduates having a higher likelihood to be hired than non-graduates, finding a job with a good starting wage will only get easier as time goes on. This, coupled with the fact that internships are required for many of Union’s degrees, puts UC’s students on much better footing than many others entering the workforce.
As the year comes to an end, whether someone is entering into the labor market for the first time or just looking for a summer job, finding work might be just a little bit less stressful for Union students this time around.
Jesse Shoghi is a junior studying computer science.