Is YOUR Employment Picture Brighter?

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

employment picture

What is the employment picture really like out there?

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!

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Published or updated October 24, 2012.


  1. I think it’s also important to focus on the positive and your own personal financial situation. During the recession, I received raises and got promoted. I couldn’t concern myself with what was going on in the greater economy. I concentrated on what I needed to do to change my own career prospects. Although the economy has made changing jobs or getting promoted or receiving a raise more challenging for some, that’s not the case for everyone. And to a certain extent, you control the number of opportunities made available to you regardless of what the national unemployment rate is.

  2. I’m 32 and I was able to change jobs at the end of 2010 and receive a pay increase at my new company. I also received a raise last year, albeit a small one (less than 3% so it didn’t cover the cost of living increase). But what I have been realizing over the past couple years is that it’s really up to you to make your own opportunities; you can’t just sit back and hope that it will happen for you.

  3. I would take any government statistics with a big grain of salt. There are many well-known gaps in their reporting (such as taking into consideration those who have given up in their job search as well as those who are under-employed).

    In terms of the real movements of the job market, I think it’s still not so pretty out there, but at the same time it really depends on where you are located as well as what industry you work (or hope to work) in. I have relatives in California with engineering degrees, and they are having a hard time even getting good internships. But at the same time, some of their friends in the tech world seem to be doing just fine.

  4. In my current profession (teaching), things are far worse than the statistic. There have been cuts for several years and the future looks bleak!

  5. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager says:

    It seems like a lot of my friends have been able to find jobs (or create their own) since 2008, which has been really nice to see.

  6. I am 24, and I have been working at my company since I was 22. I got a raise in 2011 and I was thinking I’d get a raise this year too but I will be quitting my job to go to law school by August of this year. It was hard to get a job when everyone was looking for experience, so I was lucky that I had worked throughout college. I believe this gave me a boost since I was able to have 3 years of experience even though I was in school full-time.

  7. Squeezer says:

    This bad economy started near the end of 2007/early 2008 and has continued through the present. However, I’ve had a difficult time believing we are in a bad economy. A couple of houses in my neighborhood have foreclosed but that is it. In September-October of 2009 I asked my then-supervisor to either make me a supervisor over the other IT techs or promote me to one pay grade higher. She went to her manager who came back with a No to both. I was disappointed, and she gave me a line about how we are in a bad economy and there probably isn’t much opportunity in our local job market. Two weeks later I received a job offer to a local university hospital and accepted it. It had an $8000/year raise. After working at the university hospital for a year, I was promoted there into another IT position with a $10,000/year increase. Then in July of last year I accepted a position within the federal government with another $8800/year raise. Then last week I received an offer from a consulting company, but I turned it down (undesirable location). So, I ask myself, where is the bad economy? I’ve kept getting job offers and promotions throughout the whole recession.

  8. It’s good to see people digging into the numbers a bit deeper. In response to your comment about the “under 25/over 50” crowd, some reports suggest unemployment to be over 50% for those between the ages of 18-24.
    You can also look at the u-6 measure of unemployment, which paints amuch more accurate picture of the unemployment situation, taking into account under-employed and temporary workers.

    That number currently sits at close to 15%, which is not much changed from when Obama took office.

  9. I think it’s just statistical magic. Last summer, I made a lateral move from a struggling company to a strong one within the same industry. My previous employer has been in business for over 65 years, but they’re struggling to stay afloat – the work just isn’t there. Within our industry, many firms have laid off 50% or more of their staff in the past 5 years and few are hiring. Several headwinds companies face include rising health care costs due to enactment of the new Health Care Law (those costs are set to hit hard this summer), expiration of several tax deductions for businesses at the end of last year, expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the payroll tax cut at year’s end, and a dramatic slowdown in federal spending early next year. I see “muddle through” with more and more of the same well in the future.

What Do You Think?