The most recent figures show that the rate of unemployment has dropped to 8.2%, down from a recession high of over ten percent.
That’s an impressive drop, but it is, after all, a statistic.
The real question might be, are the statistics real?
By “real” I mean do they accurately describe what people are actually seeing?
Is the improvement the product of government jobs programs, changes in the statistical count, or are most of the new hires part-timers at the Golden Arches?
Remember, that percentage you hear about is the OVERALL average unemployment. Truth is, there are many areas and groups that have much higher unemployment numbers.
Below are some employment categories that I think tell more about the employment situation in America than the unemployment numbers.
These are indicators that say plenty about the quality of the job market as opposed to just the number of people working.
Under each category I’ll pose one or more questions to you and ask that you tell the rest of us what it is you’re seeing or experiencing out in the job market.
Good jobs vs low paying jobs
Are the jobs that are being created full-time, benefited jobs that pay a living wage? Or are they low paying jobs, temporary positions, contract work or even people who are newly self-employed and thus no longer counted among the unemployed?
What kind of jobs do you see being created? Have you landed a new job yourself, and if so, is it a “real job”, or one of the others listed above?
Who’s getting promoted?
One of the surest signs of a strong recovery—especially in employment—is promotions.
Not only do salaries increase, but as the employee moves up, the job that they vacate is open for a newcomer.
Have you been promoted in the past 6-12 months? Do you know many people who have?
Employment among the under 25/over 50 crowd
This is where chronic unemployment is concentrated so it’s an important indicator of the health of the job market.
At the height of the recession, people over 50 were often the first to lose their jobs and sometimes their careers in the process. At the other end of the age spectrum, people were coming out of college and not finding jobs. Many who did found themselves unemployed just a year or two later.
Are you over 50 or under 25—if so, where are you at right now? What are your immediate prospects? If you aren’t in those two age brackets, what are you seeing among people you know who are? Are they finding jobs?
Raises and bonuses
This is another sign of real strength in the job market.
In fact, without raises and bonuses, the improvement in the unemployment numbers are really just statistics because no one’s income is improving.
Many people have gone several years without raises or bonuses—is that still your situation? Or has that improved? What are you hearing from others?
Better job opportunities
Finally there’s the job mobility factor.
The ability to leave a job for a better one says more about the health of the job market than probably any other. As people move on and up to better job opportunities, they leave an open job and maybe even a promotion for someone who will come behind them.
Have you recently been promoted? Are you seeing others being promoted?
What are you seeing out there?
OK, I’ve asked the questions, now it’s your turn!
What are you seeing out there in the job market? Is it really improving, based on people finally being able to move forward, or is it just statistics on the six o’clock news?
Details—we want details!