Unemployment 2020

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

Mitchell Hartman Nov 10, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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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
Unemployment 2020

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

Mitchell Hartman Nov 10, 2020
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
HTML EMBED:
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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

Pfizer said early data show its coronavirus vaccine is effective. So what’s next?

In the last few months, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech have shared other details of the process including trial blueprints, the breakdown of the subjects and ethnicities and whether they’re taking money from the government. They’re being especially transparent in order to try to temper public skepticism about this vaccine process. The next big test, said Jennifer Miller at the Yale School of Medicine, comes when drug companies release their data, “so that other scientists who the public trust can go in, replicate findings, and communicate them to the public. And hopefully build appropriate trust in a vaccine.”

How is President-elect Joe Biden planning to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic turmoil it’s created?

On Nov. 9, President-Elect Joe Biden announced three co-chairs of his new COVID-19 task force. But what kind of effect might this task force have during this transition time, before Biden takes office? “The transition team can do a lot to amplify and reinforce the messages of scientists and public health experts,” said Dr. Kelly Moore, associate director for the Immunization Action Coalition. Moore said Biden’s COVID task force can also “start talking to state leaders and other experts about exactly what they need to equip them to roll out the vaccines effectively.”

What does slower retail sales growth in October mean for the economy?

It is a truism that we repeat time and again at Marketplace: As goes the U.S. consumer, so goes the U.S. economy. And recently, we’ve been seeing plenty of signs of weakness in the consumer economy. Retail sales were up three-tenths of a percent in October, but the gain was weaker than expected and much weaker than September’s. John Leer, an economist at Morning Consult, said a lack of new fiscal stimulus from Congress is dampening consumers’ appetite to spend. So is the pandemic.

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