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COVID & Unemployment

Nearly two job seekers for every job: What it’s like to look for work now

Mitchell Hartman Nov 10, 2020
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A woman closes up a liquor store in Seattle in July. Job searchers are having a hard time finding work during the pandemic. David Ryder/Getty Images
COVID & Unemployment

Nearly two job seekers for every job: What it’s like to look for work now

Mitchell Hartman Nov 10, 2020
Heard on:
A woman closes up a liquor store in Seattle in July. Job searchers are having a hard time finding work during the pandemic. David Ryder/Getty Images
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While politics dominated the news last week, we got a dose of reasonably upbeat economic news — the monthly jobs report.

Unemployment fell in October to 6.9%, and people have been coming back into the workforce after losing jobs or giving up on looking for one earlier in the pandemic.

But looking for jobs isn’t getting any easier. 

And Tuesday’s JOLTS — or Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary — from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for September is evidence. Job openings were up a bit, but still much lower than at this time last year. 

We checked in with some job seekers to see how it’s going out there.

The key stat right now when it comes to finding a new job? There are nearly twice as many job seekers as there are job openings.

That’s what 29-year-old Dana Marlin is up against. She’s been looking for a new job in sales since she was laid off in March from a company outside Chicago that puts on marketing events.

“As the weeks went by, I started seeing people who were my own managers, people who had a lot more experience than me, posting on LinkedIn that their teams were being laid off, they were being laid off,” she said. “So these are the people I’m competing against.”

Marlin said she has had a lot of interviews but no offers. 

That’s also how 26-year-old Bailey Tripp’s hunt for a new digital marketing job is going in suburban St. Louis. And she said COVID-19 is a concern even if she does get an offer.

“I’ve had interviews where they’ve made it very clear that as a new employee, I’m expected to be in the office for a time,” she said. “That’s made me uncomfortable. But I have to balance finding a job and accepting something versus my own safety.”

And slogging it out in this pandemic-afflicted job market isn’t for everybody. 

Amy Wilson, 38, lives in Longmont, Colorado. She’s worked as an office and operations manager. She and her husband were laid off in early spring, and she launched her job search as the economy started reopening in May.

“But [I] just was not having much luck. Hiring was depressed; I wasn’t getting the callbacks for the kinds of jobs that I wanted,” Wilson said. “[I] kind of just made this decision to go back to school instead.”

She’s taking classes and aiming to have her associate’s degree in communications by this time next year. 

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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