Allow Me to Introduce Myself

As the economy improves, more workers are looking for new employment opportunities.

December 9, 2013

I recently attended a function at which I met several new people. A prevailing inquiry as we introduced ourselves: “What do you do?”

Our jobs can define not only our personalities, interests, and abilities, but our place in the economy and our subsequent contributions to it.  In turn, our economy makes large contributions to definitions of “self,” especially when job opportunities are limited and workers must adapt.

I know someone nurturing a small business in a tough economy, and I know someone attempting to divest himself of one. How to best close this personal passion and protect economic investment?

Some of us are independent contractors in economically challenged geographic or business areas.

Some of us work multiple jobs—either a combination of part-time gigs or a full-time position supplemented by other weekend work.

And some of us exist in employment situations that are “comfortable”—but should we ever allow ourselves to get comfortable?

Change is inevitable. Economic circumstances beyond our control may require personal redefinition, forethought, and an investment cushion.

Research this week focuses on employment trends, possibilities, and realities. Do you know how members define themselves through employment? When you do, you will meet changing financial needs, and help them find financial security when they initiate—or the economy dictates—redefinitions.

‘There is no job a man can do that is undignified—if he does it well.’—Bill Cosby

What is the employment situation? “Unemployment reached multi-year lows for about a third of states last month, but a full recovery is still not here,” says The Washington Post.

This article provides a geographical look for readers, reporting that 16 states “saw the jobless rate in October fall to its lowest level in four years.” However, the recovery “isn’t as rosy as those statistics suggest,” as “unemployment had nearly or fully recovered this many months after the start of the three other recessions.”

Nonetheless, “Job Openings in U.S. Climbed in September to Five-Year High,” says Bloomberg, “indicating employers were confident about demand before the federal government shutdown.” This is good news as wage growth is responsible for about 70% percent of the economy.

“Things are genuinely getting better,” an economist is quoted. “I don’t think we’re at the point where people will quit without having something in hand, but hopefully we’re moving in that direction.”

One of the sources consulted in the Bloomberg article is the “Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary,” released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It reveals that there were 3.9 million job openings in September, a statistic reflecting little change from August.

This report examines job openings, turnover, quits, and layoffs by industry, region, and provides a thought-provoking explanation of employment statistics.

“When the number of hires exceeds the number of separations, employment rises, even if the hires level is steady or declining. Conversely, when the number of hires is less than the number of separations, employment declines, even if the hires level is steady or rising.”

Such explanations will help clarify differing views on the employment situation.

Small Business Job Trends Optimistic; Uncertainty Lingers,” says the Small Business Administration in its examination of the recent BLS data.  

“Overall, small firms… accounted for 63% of the net new jobs from the end of the downturn in mid-2009 to the end of 2012… If this trend continued into 2013, small businesses would be expected to have created 4 million of the 6.4 million private-sector net new jobs.”

However, “Uncertainty still plagues employers, and the next two months of employment data… will be difficult to gauge” due, in part, to the government shutdown and questions about holiday shopping. To summarize, “small firms’ net job growth continues to be positive but uneven.”

‘I am afraid that the pleasantness of employment does not always evince its propriety.’ –Jane Austen

Those looking to find temporary work, take note: “Ho-ho-oh-no: Holiday Hiring May Not Be So Jolly This Year,” according to Workforce. “Retail hiring is expected to be high… but it’s not expected to surpass last year’s ultimate total—the highest in 12 years.”

Contributing factors include “uncertain consumer confidence, the continued rise of Internet shopping and increasing retail workforce efficiency.” Retailers also say they have hired more workers throughout the year, whereas last year required employers “make a large number of hires quickly to pick up the slack.”

Meanwhile, it seems many of us seek to redefine ourselves as “Most Employees Plan to Pursue New Job Opportunities in 2014,” says a ManpowerGroup poll.

“Eighty-three percent… say they intend to actively seek a new position in the New Year,” while a mere 5% said they will stay where they are. Nine percent “indicate they may look for new opportunities and are networking.

“These numbers should signal a wake-up call for top management… Solutions to keep the best talent on board all point to effective engagement that drives performance, satisfaction and loyalty.” Perhaps employees want to define themselves with productivity and a sense of value, suggests the article.

‘Choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.’ –Confucius

Good news for some hoping to enter the work force as “Employers Will Hire 12% More Grads in 2014,” notes a post at Blogging4jobs. In addition, survey results say “employers plan to hire 7.8% more new college graduates for their U.S. operations in 2013-14 than they did in 2012-13.”

Job seekers need to join professional organizations, polish up a well-rounded resume, hone writing skills, and practice interviewing technique as they pursue the jobs that help define them.

And, what can we expect to earn as we head to work in 2014? “Salary Increases Hold Steady,” is the trend identified by the Society for Human Resource Management.

“Average pay increases for 2014 will remain at 3% for the second year in a row… roughly one percentage point below pre-recession levels.” Employers remain cautious with compensation budgets, and performance ratings and standards have increased for employees.

Another interesting item of note: “Talent retention remains employers’ top HR priority, while employers project no increased hiring activity for 2014, with just 19% of respondents anticipating adding workers in 2014, the same as in 2013.”

Our sense of self is impacted by our job choices, which we control to some degree. And our available job choices are influenced in part by the economy, which the individual cannot control.

But, you will foster in your members a sense of financial security and confidence no matter how they define themselves when you know about and respond to various employment situations.

Keep in mind the empathetic words of Harry S. Truman: “It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose yours.”






Lora Bray is a research librarian at CUNA.