Jobs and the Future of Work

Here's why now is the perfect time to find a new job

The US added 517,000 jobs in January.

The US added 517,000 jobs in January. Image: Unsplash/saulomohana

Madison Hoff
Data Editorial Fellow, Business Insider
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  • There are around twice as many job openings in the US as unemployed people, and the unemployment rate is at its lowest point over 50 years.
  • A ZipRecruiter survey shows that around half of people who have recently searched for a new job have been hired within a month.
  • But one expert says there's a strong chance this could change in the coming months, depending on the economy's response to interest rate increases, falling investment and dips in consumer spending.

Kayla Lazenby was feeling panicked after finding out before Thanksgiving that she was laid off from her job at an edtech company.

She knew that her family needed her income to help pay bills, and she was having to say goodbye to a company for which she thought she'd work for a while.

"Business is business, so I understood that sometimes for the sake of being able to go forward, businesses do have to make these choices," Lazenby said. "But, I think on a personal level, it's hard to grapple with how you can be so meaningful to the company in one moment and then feel so disposed of the next."

But this panic quickly faded when she landed a job shortly after with the help of a LinkedIn post in which she talked about her layoff and availability for new work opportunities.

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Lazenby now is a sales strategist at SalesHive after taking the job two weeks after being laid off. She isn't the only recent job seeker who has rapidly found a new role.

A ZipRecruiter survey conducted in October of about 2,500 US workers who "started their jobs in the prior" six months highlights that people were quickly finding work. Around half were able to find work within a month, with only a tiny fraction saying more than six months. This quick hiring was even seen for those laid off in tech, where over a third found a role within just a month.

"The best job seeker's market in over 50 years"

According to Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter, now is a great time to find a job.

"Despite recession fears, it appears to be the best job seeker's market in over 50 years," she said. "As of the December report, leading recession indicators in the jobs report were looking worrying," Pollak said. "Working hours and temporary help employment had fallen for several months."

But that wasn't the case in January as both of those measures rebounded strongly according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' job report out Friday.

Plenty of data out this week supports that. There's about twice as many job openings as unemployed people, and openings have soared to a five-month high as of December. The US saw 517,000 jobs added in January and the unemployment rate is at the lowest point in over 50 years.

"If I was a job seeker I would think this is still a job seekers' labor market," Nick Bunker, economic research director for North America at Indeed Hiring Lab, told Insider. "Things have moderated in some ways over the last year and a bit. But this is still very much a labor market that's giving lots of advantages to people who are looking for new work."

In the thriving labor market, people aren't staying out of work for long. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the median length of time unemployed workers reported they were out of of a job has fallen pretty steadily over the last two years, from a recent high of 19.9 weeks in June 2021 to only 9.1 weeks in January 2023.

Graph showcasing the median duration of unemployment. US Jobs
Fewer people have slid into long-term unemployment in the last year and a half Image: Bureau of Labor Statistics

"Fewer people have slid into long-term unemployment in the last year and a half with record low unemployment, elevated hiring, and labor shortages," Andrew McCaskill, career expert at LinkedIn, told Insider in a statement.

While the time workers stay unemployed has dropped, the number of workers quitting their jobs continues to skyrocket. In fact, the number of US quits reached a record high in 2022 for the two decades the Bureau of Labor Statistics has tracked this figure.

"Workers are clearly confident about their prospects as they continue to quit their old jobs at high rates," Bunker wrote in a post. "Right now we see that workers still have a lot of bargaining power," Cory Stahle, an economist at Indeed, told Insider in January. "We're still in a position where there are a lot of jobs available out there in the market."

Not every unemployed worker is quickly finding a job, and the market could cool off later this year.

But not all workers are finding it easy to land a position. Even though the number of people considered long-term unemployed is low, there are people who have been out of work and looking for a job for months.

"There is a lot of research out there that shows that it becomes much harder to land a job the longer you have been out of one," McCaskill said in a statement.

Kristen, whose last name and previous employer is known to Insider, quit her legal services job in July and is still in the search process for an entry-level position in potentially project management or project coordination.

She's finding it hard to land a job in part because she's seeing jobs advertised that want many years of experience for an entry-level position. Kristen said she already had some interviews when she originally resigned but they didn't pan out in the end.

"I've seen so many posts of people who have been looking for eight months, nine months. I had someone talk to me about it and they've been looking for two years," Kristen said.

"I would love to say I feel better about it now, but I don't," Kristen added. "You keep seeing layoffs, you keep seeing companies who are like, well, we don't know if we're going to hire anymore or we might have to put a hold on hiring."

She said the last couple of months "have been a constant worry" about "whether or not I will be able to take care of my basic needs" in addition to figuring out how to make sure bills are paid.

"If I could have had a crystal ball and seen what six months later was going to be like, I wouldn't have done it," Kristen said. "But at the same time, that's terrible that this is the kind of job market now where people are almost being forced to stick with jobs that aren't good for them or jobs that create very bad environments for them to be in."

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Despite the strong labor market, some workers out of work or impacted by recent layoff announcements may have a hard time finding a job soon.

Pollak said in an interview before Friday's jobs report that showed more jobs gains in January than December that job seekers shouldn't hesitate to look for work "because there's a strong chance that labor market conditions could deteriorate in the coming months given the economy's response to the Fed's interest rate increases, the decline in investment, and recent sort of downtick in consumer spending and manufacturing as well."

"It was unusually easy in 2021 and 2022 to find a new job because the entire country was sort of restaffing at once at a time when there were labor shortages and employers were prepared to pay a lot for people and were being very, very aggressive when it comes to recruiting," Pollak said.

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