Are we in a recession, or is one still looming on the horizon?
Is inflation soaring, or is it on the decline?
Are the tech industry layoffs a sign of an impending job market bloodbath, or should we be celebrating historically low unemployment?
One thing’s for sure: The current market trend is as easy to follow as when Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it”.
What can we learn from Yogi Berra?
Despite operating in this space for more than 20 years, I feel as though anyone’s guess is as good as mine. We’re stuck in a holding pattern with the same questions we’ve been asking for months. Berra’s famous line, “you can observe a lot just by watching,” keeps coming to mind. I’ve been trying my best to follow his advice, hoping for some clarity, but no luck so far.
If you don’t know Yogi Berra, you should. He’s a baseball legend who was named an all star in 18 of the 19 seasons he played in the major leagues. He won 10 World Series championships. He’s in the Hall of Fame as one of the best to ever play the game.
And yet, despite Berra’s athletic success, he’s often remembered more for his witty and insightful one-liners than his play on the field. Now that we’re knee-deep into 2023 without much resolution on the job-market front, another one of Berra’s famous lines seems fitting: “it’s deja vu all over again.”
In an attempt to unravel the tangled-up mess of economic uncertainty, I did an unintentional deep dive into Yogi Berra canon. I was surprised at the wisdom I found and how relevant it is for the job market today. Job seekers and employers alike could learn a lot from Berra’s words.
But, because basing a job market article on the on the illogical words of a late baseball star isn’t, well, logical, I dug deeper into the numbers and spoke with my staffing industry peers across the country.
Here are the four areas that currently stand out, rounded out with a little additional Yogi Berra wisdom for good measure.
Hot areas of the job market
Berra passed away a mere seven years ago, but I bet if he were here today he’d have a witticism or two about the exponential changes to how we work–namely, the huge boom in freelancing.
In the U.S. alone, there are over 73 million freelancers earning a living in the $1.5 trillion freelance market, and the number is growing at a CAGR of 15%. Explosive growth has been underway in the space for years and conditions are ripe for momentum to increase.
There are a variety of reasons for this: the rise of the gig economy, the proliferation of digital technologies, and the increased flexibility of the freelance lifestyle. And that’s before factoring in the tens of thousands of highly skilled tech workers who are suddenly on the market.
Also, freelancing just makes sense.
The emergence of the career freelancer has made it easier for employers of all sizes to cut through cumbersome HR hiring practices and simply hire the most qualified talent when and where it’s needed. Workers win, too, with increased freedom to negotiate and control every aspect of how their professional time is spent.
Better pay, remote work, and flexible schedules are just the tip of the iceberg, as each day more professionals realize freelance engagements are healthier than traditional employee-employer relationships.
When Berra said, “the future ain’t what it used to be,” I’m fairly certain he didn’t have the freelance market in mind, but for the new and improved way to work, the future is now.
It was Ben Franklin who taught us that “nothing is certain except death and taxes” (he’s another one with some great one-liners, in case you were wondering). What does this have to do with jobs? Well, when it comes to recession-proof ones, healthcare will always reign supreme.
Unlike many others who are currently in wait-and-see mode, the healthcare-centric staffing executives I’ve spoken with have no intention of slowing down hiring. SkyBridge Healthcare president Randall Bahlow has seen continued high demand for his company’s services.
“SkyBridge Healthcare is forecasting 2023 to be a year of significant growth,” Bahlow told me, “with our major expansion coming from acute care and home health.”
Bahlow isn’t alone in seeing growth opportunities in the healthcare space. Staffing industry entrepreneur Steve Glomski recently launched Abra, a software platform he created to change how health systems hire. In spite of economic uncertainties, Glomski told me he was confident healthcare hiring would remain strong throughout the year.
It looks like he’ll turn out to be right as demand out of the gate is significant, while leading software companies in other industries are currently struggling with new sales. With more than two million current healthcare job openings in the U.S., it’s not difficult to see why the demand for services remains high.
Considering the very public and alarming numbers associated with recent layoffs from tech giants like Google, Meta, Microsoft, and Amazon, IT professionals need not worry. For more than a decade, there’s been a significant shortage of qualified candidates for U.S. technology job openings, which will continue despite these massive downsizings. As low as our national unemployment rate is at 3.5 percent, the national unemployment rate for IT professionals is only 2.1 percent.
While I love data, I trust my industry peers the most when it comes to knowing what’s going on in the job market. Their overall sentiment can best be described as cautious optimism.
“It won’t be the job market we had in the early part of 2022, but it will be solid,” said staffing veteran and ProFocus Technology founding president John Boone.
As the Pacific Northwest’s premier IT staffing agency, the execs at ProFocus have their fingers solidly on the pulse of the region.
ProFocus VP James Lund echoes Boone’s point of view.
“Despite the layoffs, the job market for tech will remain strong,” Lund told me. “There simply are not enough qualified tech candidates for the jobs in the market now and for what is expected in 2023.”
Maybe it’s not a huge surprise that tech hiring is strong on the west coast, but Jason Clayton, vice president of Business Centric Technology, let me know he’s seeing much of the same in Texas. Clayton and the BCT team play a significant role in the Dallas tech community, so I was interested in knowing what they’re hearing from employers.
“2023 is projected to be a solid year for IT professionals, and IT departments will continue to have significant work and projects ahead of them,” Clayton said. “Many of the CIOs we support will have a 40 to 60% increase in their IT budgets for 2023, of which hiring is a big part.”
Yogi Berra said “it ain’t over til it’s over,” and the tech talent shortage isn’t over yet. After speaking with an additional half dozen IT recruiting professionals who operate primarily in the south and northeast, I’m confident demand for technical talent will continue to remain strong–even if the market decline gets worse for a while before getting better.
4. Artificial intelligence
Some might lump artificial intelligence together with IT as a whole, but it’s such a new and exciting beast that I feel it deserves its own dedicated discussion.
While we all know AI has been growing in prevalence, ChatGPT changed the game immediately upon launching publicly this past December. It’s a simple yet incredibly smart bot that can generate text-based responses based on human input. For example, it can answer questions, summarize long chunks of text, and write stories, just to name a few of its many capabilities. Its potential to be used in applications from business to education is huge, and so, too, are the employment opportunities surrounding it.
The demand for these applications is massive, and companies desperately need creative, intelligent talent with AI expertise to help them meet that demand. In less than two months ChatGPT has surpassed one hundred million users, and we’ve only just begin to see what AI applications can do. It’s one of the most interesting technology frontiers we’ve seen in a long time and I’m excited to watch how it plays out from a hiring standpoint.
In conclusion, while the job market may not be all rainbows and sunshine, it still has its share of bright spots. I think we can all agree with our friend Yogi Berra when he said “if the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.” While the times we’re currently living and working in are far from perfect, there are no shortage of immediate, exciting and lucrative opportunities available if you know where to look!