In the six years since the global financial crisis, the U.S. economy has gained much of the economic strength that was lost in the recession. In the last month alone, the economy showed a robust hiring rate of 287,000, the highest monthly job gains since October 2015. The U.S. economy has now added over 13.6 million jobs since October of 2009.
While the U.S. labor force continues to expand, something unusual is happening. While the number of jobs is growing, most workers feel like their employment prospects are not improving. A large part of this is due to wage stagnation, with employers not raising compensation despite strong job demand.
At Indeed, we asked our research team, Hiring Lab, to find which jobs in the economy have seen wage growth and competitive salaries. The findings were stark.
First, we noticed that only about 15 percent of workers are in these “opportunity” jobs (jobs that pay the median wage and have seen wages keep pace with inflation) as of the latest government data. The roles were also limited to five key industries: healthcare, management, technology, business and finance, and engineering. Seventy-two percent of these jobs require a college degree, and more than 50 percent are located in just nine states.
While just a small portion of the workforce has opportunity jobs today, employers are struggling to fill these high-value positions. On our site, a promising 35 percent of job postings fall into this category of opportunity jobs. That means there’s a lot of opportunity out there for workers, whether employed or looking for employment, as long as they can gain the right skills, or find employers who will train them.
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Matching workers to this rapidly polarizing array of jobs, almost all of which require some level of training or education, is not an easy task. Employers and policymakers will need to find creative ways to fill these positions not just to raise worker sentiment, but to get cash in their pockets to spend back into the economy.
Based on our report’s finding, there are a few areas that employers can focus on or invest in to help fill these high growth roles:
- On-the-job training and education: Seventy-five percent of these high growth jobs require a college degree, and the other 25 percent usually require a specific skill or certification. When companies are struggling to find this kind of talent, they can bring training in house to develop the talent they need. On-the-job training was quite common a generation ago but has been declining for decades in the modern workplace. While training is an up-front investment, it is a more prudent investment than waiting for the perfect candidate to arrive.
- Flexible work: Research shows us that flexible work ranks third among employees for what they look for in a job, behind only compensation and location. Those first two can be difficult to control — though both are worth addressing to draw top talent — but flexibility is something many companies can consider. The nursing industry is a good example. With high demand for nurses, many employers are offering flexible shift scheduling, and in some cases traveling nurse jobs. That type of model could bring workers into other industries as well.
Employers who are struggling to fill these types of jobs will need to be more active in how they are recruiting and training in order to close the gap. This will help relieve the anxiety we’re sensing from the workforce, which has told us, loud and clear, that any job is not a good job.