If you do a quick search to determine the pulse of the job search market in the U.S., you’ll likely get conflicting information. CNBC reported in July that payrolls in June were above expectations and that the unemployment rate remains near a 50-year low. Other sources provide statistics about the lack of regulation of minimum wage and overtime protections. Many stories tell of homelessness, joblessness, and underemployment that seems to plague thousands of blue-collar workers.
While the Trump administration would like Americans to believe that we are in a time of unprecedented job growth, this clearly is not the case. The wide range of conflicting information might leave many people wondering what America would look like if everyone was guaranteed a job. Many U.S. workers are leaving traditional job markets to pursue freelance work to escape unhealthy work cultures and stress. Other workers are searching for second or even third jobs to make ends meet.
How do you ensure career success in America? Here is an honest look at the current job market.
Examining Unemployment Rates
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate was at 3.6% in May of this year. While this seems like a low percentage of the country, it still means that almost six million Americans were unemployed. The rate of unemployment is higher for men compared to women. More black and Hispanic Americans struggled with unemployment in May compared to those who were white or Asian.
These statistics don’t include numbers for those who are underemployed or discouraged to the point that they are no longer looking for gainful employment. When you add in people who fall into these categories, the unemployment rate doesn’t look so good. Individuals who aren’t making enough money to pay the bills may be employed at more than one job or engaging in side hustles to make ends meet.
Unemployment trends differently from one industry to the next. The majority of new jobs in July 2019 were in industries such as professional and business services, healthcare, education, and finance. These industries have a limited number of blue-collar workers. This means that the areas with the most growth pay more, require education or training, and offer sought-after benefits like paid time off and insurance.
Part-Time Opportunities in America
The United States Census Bureau reports that a steady number of workers have more than one job. The most common schedule is to work full-time at one position and less than 35 hours a week at another job or two. Women are more likely than men to work part-time at all positions. This employment trend for women may be due to family and childcare obligations.
The reasons for this range from needing more money to wanting new experiences. Some people work second jobs to compensate for benefits their primary position lacks, such as hours, pay, or insurance. Other people work part-time jobs as the result of work addiction or the desire to continue affording unsustainable habits. However, for many, part-time jobs are the only form of employment they can find.
Part-time work is standard in lower-paying service-based industries such as food and retail. Popular part-time jobs include delivery truck driver, materials mover, and graphic designer. However, many types of part-time work require training, education, or a high level of skill in a specific industry. Many people who need extra hours are left settling for non-skilled jobs in restaurants or retail.
Some part-time jobs come with inherent risks. If you work a part-time job after your daytime job and get injured, you could be at risk of losing more than your part-time hours; workers injured on the job at a secondary occupation might not be able to work at their full-time job. However, because the accident didn’t happen on the clock at their primary employer, they aren’t offered some protections. They may be left with no job, without the ability to utilize resources like workers’ compensation.
Bring in the Entrepreneurs
It seems America is obsessed with shows about entrepreneurs these days (as evidenced by the results of the 2016 election). Whether you spend your time watching “The Profit” or “Shark Tank,” you may wonder if most Americans venture into entrepreneurship out of passion or need. It’s estimated that more than 15 million Americans are self-employed full-time, and over 400,000 new companies were started in 2014 alone. However, only about 80% of small businesses survive the first year, and only about half are still in business after five years.
Many women go into entrepreneurship to escape less-than-stellar workplace conditions and to have the flexibility to work and raise a family. More than 1,800 new businesses were started each day by women in 2017 and 2018. Hot industries for entrepreneurship include healthcare, technical services, and social assistance. Other areas that attract entrepreneurs include blogging, bookkeeping, and photography.
Is This a Golden Age?
It’s difficult to say that we are in a broad Golden Age of employment, especially when it comes to certain industries and segments of the population. Creating jobs isn’t easy. Neither is getting and keeping a job. Some Americans may believe that our country is experiencing a time of abundance. However, others go without meals or struggle to pay for water and electric. It’s vital to be realistic about your career prospects, as well as to sharpen your skillset and choose a field that is in high demand.