Jun 5, 2024 - Business

The labor market slowdown is driving job hunters "crazy"

Illustration of a maze in the shape of a briefcase

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The labor market is stagnating, particularly for white-collar workers. Employers are reluctant to let workers go and they also aren't in a hurry to hire.

Why it matters: The cooling labor market may be good for quelling inflation but it's frustrating for job hunters — those who are employed feel stuck in roles they no longer want, while the unemployed struggle to get hired.

What they're saying: "The stagnant job market is driving people crazy," says Phoebe Gavin, a career coach in media, entertainment and tech.

Zoom in: Workers are reporting that the hiring process has become a marathon, Gavin says. Her clients are going through "really long processes with many, many stages."

  • Employers are asking applicants to perform complicated tests, and they're not willing to budge much in negotiations, she says.
  • A graphic designer told Axios he's been looking for a new role for eight months. There are so many hoops to jump through in the interview process, he says. And the salaries and freelance rates on offer are far lower than a few years ago.
  • In posts on Reddit's r/recruitinghell page and LinkedIn, job hunters share similar frustrations. (A few years ago, "recruiting hell," in certain industries, meant that recruiters were incessantly calling you.)

Driving the news: Job openings are at their lowest level in three years, according to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data released Tuesday morning.

  • But the number of people losing their jobs through layoffs and firing is lower than last year.

The big picture: The labor market has slowed from the go-go days of 2022, but it's not in crisis. Most people who want to work are — eventually — finding jobs, says Nick Bunker, an economist at Indeed.

  • Layoffs are at low levels, per the JOLTS data, and so is the unemployment rate.
  • This is exactly what the Federal Reserve was hoping for when it started hiking rates in 2022, says Bunker.
  • "Even if it's very frustrating that a person with a job, can't go out and find a new job and get a huge pay raise very quickly," he says. "That's actually probably the least painful way for the labor market to have cooled down over the last few years."

The bottom line: Not too long ago, most professionals were living in a job hoppers paradise — now not so much.

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