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New government data shows a surprisingly strong job market for the month of January.
But there are signs of weakness in the labor market, based on tens of thousands of workers who have been laid off since 2024 started.
U.S. employers announced 82,307 job cuts in January, up from 34,817 in December, a 136% increase, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Still, that is down 20% from the 102,943 cuts announced in January 2023 and the all-time high for that month in 2009, with 241,749 job losses.
At the same time, the latest data shows the U.S. job market is still strong, with the unemployment rate holding at 3.7%.
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Moreover, the number of job openings stands at nine million, which is still elevated compared to prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, yet down from a 12 million peak, noted Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.
“On the one hand, Americans should have a sense that their job security is generally speaking in a good place,” Hamrick said. “At the same time, we have to understand that certain sectors of the economy may be experiencing more disruption or innovation.”
With that innovation comes a higher risk that workers may suffer from an income loss as the economy adjusts, he said.
For example, retail brands may be shedding positions as they continue to transition from brick-and-mortar stores to online sales. Sectors tied to the mortgage industry are repositioning in the wake of higher interest rates. Areas such as entertainment and media are adjusting to new online streaming and subscription models.
“There’s still the benefit of the elevated number of job openings,” despite the anecdotal evidence that job cuts are happening, Hamrick said.
Some companies that have open positions are eager to fill them.
“There are still companies that are hiring, and they can’t find talent fast enough,” said Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster.
If you’re newly out of work, taking these steps may help you get hired faster.
Losing a job typically prompts a feeling of rejection, Salemi said, while getting a job offer instead prompts acceptance and optimism about the future.
To get to that latter phase faster, it helps to take a moment to acknowledge your feelings and shift into a better mindset.
Salemi recalls working as a corporate recruiter to help two candidates who had just been let go to prepare for their job search.
The first candidate who was excited about potential opportunities landed a new job in six weeks. The other who was shell-shocked from the layoff took longer than six months to find a new position.
Mindset and attitude make all the difference, according to Salemi. “Navigating this journey can be challenging, but it can definitely be overcome,” Salemi said.
Update your resume with your latest accomplishments based on recent performance reviews, Salemi said.
To refresh your interviewing skills, try practicing with a friend, setting up informational interviews or getting tips from a career coach.
When you see a relevant position advertised, be sure to apply quickly. “Don’t wait more than 24 hours — the job may be gone,” Salemi said.
Also, be sure to include keywords that will help put your applications to the top of a recruiter’s results, she said.
Start thinking about the ideal job and what that looks like for you by asking yourself some key questions, Salemi advised.
Where is your ideal position based: in office, hybrid or remote? What industry is it in? What tasks does it require? Are there strengths or items you absolutely loved doing in your last position that you want to continue doing?
Use your time away from a full-time role to continue advancing your skills. That may include taking on a part-time role, volunteer work or online class.
When interviewing, be sure to highlight how those experiences have kept your skills fresh and enhanced what you can offer, Salemi said.
Just because you’re out of work doesn’t necessarily mean you need to take a lower salary for your next role. Even if you are coming to a new position without a job, do not discount your worth because you’re unemployed, Salemi said.
Employers are more surprised when you don’t negotiate than when you do, according to Salemi.
“Don’t be shy about negotiating that offer,” Salemi said.
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