This year may be one of the best for employees and wage earners in recent memory, if current predictions hold true.
The nation’s official unemployment rate continues to fall, and hovered around 5% at year-end (not taking into account members of the workforce who have dropped out and/or given up looking for work), and most economists expect that trend to continue in 2016.
The job market was seen as tightening, with hiring still on an upswing and employers offering greater stability not seen since before the economic downturn. Analysts predict that jobs will continue to be added at a good clip--between 190,000 and 200,000 per month, down slightly from the 2015 average.
And 2016 kicked off with numerous wage hikes going into effect in various locales and organizations around the country, including minimum-wage increases for the first time in many years. In a recent “Jobs and Hiring Outlook” issued by financial-advisory firm Kiplinger’s, the scenario is rosy indeed for job-holders, with employers advised to “up their game” in order to hire and retain quality workers.
Among the fields where job-seekers may have success, according to the author, are:
However, not everyone is so bullish about the state of the economy or the imminent future of the labor force. The author of a year-end Yahoo! Financearticle cites some ominous findings from a recent McKinsey study related to (what else?) technological advances. In fact, 45% of all activities performed by employees in the workplace can actually be done by machines and software that already exist; and we’re not just talking about assembly-line or factory jobs, but some tasks performed by senior managers, and even CEOs.
Still, the study highlighted five categories of jobs that may be headed the way of the woolly mammoth, thanks to technological advances (some rather surprising):
Lower-skilled production workers
Bookkeeping, accounting, auditing and billing clerks
Automotive mechanics and technicians
Construction equipment operators
Butchers and bakers (candlestick makers aren’t mentioned)
While the author strikes a chord of optimism by saying that some of the jobs to be eliminated will be replaced by workers needed to keep the technology wheels turning, he also cites some occupations that still require a human touch, for the time being:
Transportation workers (freight, stock, material movers)
Home health aides – a growth field if there ever was one
Management analysts working with financial data and projections
Good News for College Graduates
While college students likely will still be straddled with crushing loads of student-loan debt, perhaps for generations to come, they can at least look forward to an improving job market after they graduate.
A “Job Outlook 2016” published in October by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, or NACE, predicts an 11% increase in hiring of college grads by employers in the New Year, up slightly from the 10% level measured at year-end 2015.
Even more encouraging is the perception of the job market among employers who participated in the 2016 NACE survey: some 42% see the playing field as very good or excellent, up from 18% just two years ago. At the same time, not all responding employers plan to increase their hiring levels this year, and 42% of those nay-sayers cite plunging oil prices.
Other reasons for caution in bringing aboard new hires include decreased company growth and budgets, as well as corporate restructuring/reorganization. Still, the number of respondents indicating they plan to maintain their level of college hiring is at a five-year high among the survey-takers. They pointed to consistent and steady growth within their firms, a solid retention level of new college grads, along with successful planning for college hires from year to year as reasons why.
A “Breakout Year” for Wage Growth?
Moody’s Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi predicts as much. It would be a most welcome trend for middle- and working-class employees, who have been frustrated by stagnant wages for decades now.
Researchers at both Moody’s and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta are encouraged by increases in wage and salary growth–-which both institutions say was more robust in 2015 than common knowledge would have it, according to a recent article from the L.A. Times.
In fact, stagnant wages and the plight of the middle class may be the only things that all the numerous presidential candidates can agree on. Sadly, all have yet to articulate a clear plan for improving the situation. If increases in pay rates in New York State, California and other places (and industries) really do result in higher levels of consumer spending (a key driver of economic growth) in 2016, it may take some pressure off the next president – whoever he or she may be.
For now, let’s ring in the New Year with a bright outlook for the American Worker.