There are now more job seekers than jobs in the U.S. That’s according to the latest report on employment from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In October, there were 6 million job seekers and only 5.6 million job openings a record low since these numbers started being kept in 2000. So why is it so hard to find a job? A combination of factors has made this an especially difficult time for job seekers. The Great Recession left many potential workers sidelined, and that has made it harder for them to find new opportunities and return to work after losing their old ones. New technologies have also had a profound effect on how we work, which has made certain skills less in demand while others are in higher demand than ever before. At the same time, a lot of traditional industries have been hit hard by foreign competition or technological advances that streamline processes and reduce costs taking away many opportunities for jobs that have existed for generations. Here’s why finding a job has become so difficult for so many people today.
Why is it so hard to find a job?
It’s hard to find a job because the economy isn’t doing well. The number of jobs available is lower than the number of people looking for jobs, so it’s competitive to find a job. additionally, many companies are asking for more qualifications than ever before. They want people with degrees and with experience in their field. So it can be hard to find your first job or to move up in your career if you don’t have the perfect qualifications.
- The number of jobs in the U.S. has been shrinking for years, but the pace of decline has accelerated in recent years. The U.S. added only 1 million jobs in 2010, and it lost a total of 7 million jobs between 2007 and 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s a decline from 8 million to 6 million jobs over a five-year period—a staggering drop.
- The loss of 7 million jobs has been concentrated among certain sectors and occupations—especially those that were hit hardest by the Great Recession, such as construction and manufacturing. Those are also industries where more than half of the job losses have come during this recovery period, according to an analysis by Moody’s Analytics.
- There are fewer people working these days than there have been at any point since World War II—even though we’re producing more goods and services than ever before (just look at this chart). This is largely due to the fact that there are fewer people of working age in the country. The number of Americans in their prime working years ages 25 to 54 has fallen by 9 million since 2007, according to the Census Bureau. That number has been declining for decades, so it’s not surprising that this is contributing to the jobless recovery.
- As more people leave the workforce and fewer young people enter it, it’s harder for those who remain to find new jobs. In March 2010, nearly 30 percent of American adults were considered part-time workers because they wanted full-time work but could only find part-time jobs; that figure was down slightly from a year earlier, but it’s still higher than it was a decade ago, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Lack Of Basic Job Skills
- The Great Recession of 2008-2009, which began in late 2007, left millions of workers sidelined by unemployment.
- The Great Recession has been followed by the economic recovery, which has left many of those who lost their jobs unable to find new ones.
- Technology and automation have made it harder for people who don’t have specialized skills to find work in many industries. For example, many traditional jobs in manufacturing—such as operating heavy machinery and maintaining electrical systems—are disappearing as new technologies make them less necessary or less appealing to employers. At the same time, the growing demand for workers with certain types of training has also made these skills more valuable than ever before and thus more difficult for workers without them to obtain. For example:
- In addition to manufacturing and other types of manual labor that are being automated out of existence, some other jobs that were once considered “middle-class” are being replaced by technology as well.
Automation And AI
1. It’s harder than ever to find a job
In April, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in the first quarter of 2016, there were 7.7 million job openings and only 5.3 million job seekers. That’s an unemployment rate of 4.4 percent, which is low by historical standards but high compared to the past few years. The number of job seekers has been rising since 2010, and it’s up more than 2 million since 2014—meaning there are fewer jobs available in this country today than at any point since 2007 when the Great Recession began.
2. New technologies have made many jobs obsolete
New technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning—have made many kinds of manual labor obsolete. AI has already replaced a lot of jobs in retail stores and other services by making it easier for computers to perform tasks that require pattern recognition or human interaction. It’s also being used in manufacturing to automate processes that have required a human workforce. And as the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes a larger part of our lives, companies are using AI to make more products and services more efficient and convenient.
3. There are fewer manufacturing jobs than ever before
The same technologies that have made certain jobs obsolete have also reduced the number of manufacturing jobs in this country by more than half since 2000, according to a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of manufacturing jobs has fallen by 17 percent since then, while the number of non-manufacturing positions has risen by 7 percent. In 2015, over 6 million people worked in manufacturing while just under 6 million worked in non-manufacturing industries.
4. Many jobs have been replaced by technology
Because of advances in technology, many jobs have been replaced by automation. For example, a study of manufacturing jobs in the United States found that half of all assembly-line workers are likely to be replaced by robots within the next 20 years. Still, there has been a significant increase in the number of manufacturing jobs in this country since 2000, and as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, “Employment in non-manufacturing industries grew at a faster rate than employment in manufacturing industries between 2010 and 2015.”
Trade Wars And Protectionism
1. Trade Wars
The U.S. has been in a trade war with China for years, and we’ve recently had a spat with the European Union, too. Our trading partners have been taking advantage of the weak economy to demand more money from us in exchange for selling their products here—and the result has been higher prices for many goods and services. In addition, new tariffs that are being imposed on American goods are making it harder to find jobs here at home. The Trump administration has announced a 25 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, which is expected to raise prices on hundreds of thousands of items. Tariffs also make it harder for American companies to sell abroad without paying higher prices than they would have otherwise. And that’s not all: New tariffs imposed by the White House have made it more expensive for U.S.-based companies to build factories overseas or even hire workers from other countries.
2. Protectionism And New Trade Restrictions
The Trump administration isn’t the only one to blame for this mess. In recent years, Congress has passed a number of laws that have made it harder for Americans to export their goods and services overseas. The most obvious example: The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was signed into law in 1994. NAFTA was supposed to lower the barriers between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico and make it easier for people and companies in those countries to sell their goods here in the U.S. But a lot of companies have complained that they have been hurt by NAFTA’s rules, which require them to share jobs with workers from other countries.
3. China And Other Trade Restrictions
China is also taking advantage of us by imposing tariffs on items we import from them—and not just on steel or aluminum, but on a number of other products, including clothing, soybeans, and even pork products. These tariffs are making it more expensive for American companies to sell their products in China and other countries, which means they are likely to have to raise prices for the products that remain.
4. Trade Wars And Protectionism Are Dangerous
The U.S. has been fighting trade wars for years, with no end in sight. It’s not clear how much damage these trade restrictions have caused so far—but it’s a lot of damage, and it’s only getting worse as we go along.
Automation And Robotics
- Automation and robotics have been taking jobs from people in manufacturing, transportation, and other blue-collar-type industries. This has lowered the demand for jobs in these areas and made it harder for people to find work there.
- Computers have also taken over jobs traditionally done by accountants, bookkeepers, and others in white-collar fields.
- The rise of the Internet has made it easier for companies to do business with each other without having to deal with middlemen—such as banks or retailers—who used to take a cut of every transaction. That means fewer jobs in the traditional retail industry, which is where most of us go to buy things we need every day.
- As more of our lives are conducted online, there are fewer opportunities for jobs that used to require face-to-face meetings or personal interactions, such as salespeople or customer service representatives who work in stores or at call centers. Some companies are going so far as to replace people who work in the traditional workplace with technology, such as a robot that is programmed to handle customer transactions.
- Finally, the rise of e-commerce has also made it easier for companies to sell their products directly to customers, which has eliminated some jobs in retail and other industries.
All of these factors have made it harder for people to find jobs and earn a living. Many workers have lost their jobs due to automation and have not been able to learn new skills needed to stay employed in the modern workplace. Others have been out of work for a long time and have struggled to find new jobs as the economy has improved and competition for work has increased. Finding a job has become harder for many people, but it’s not impossible. If you’re looking for work and facing any of these challenges, be patient and keep trying. Keep learning new skills and networking with others to get your name out there. In the long run, it will pay off.