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Hiring has slowed over the course of 2023, declining about 24% year over year as of Q3. But if you’re job searching, there’s no reason to panic–employers are still recruiting new employees; they’re just doing so more strategically and cautiously than in the immediate post-pandemic hiring heyday. 

We’re breaking down all the job market trends that should be on your radar in 2024, especially if you plan on looking for a job, asking for a promotion, or making other big moves to advance your career. 

1. The job market continues to fluctuate

The job market and the broader economy are like two boats riding the same wave; when one goes up or down, the other is close behind it. With an economic cooldown expected to continue throughout 2024, we’ll likely see ongoing job market shifts in response. 

It’s not so much that hiring is declining. Job growth is slowing down–but it’s coming down from the unprecedented pace of the past few years and returning to more normal levels typical of pre-pandemic times. Experts say that although unemployment has ticked upward in late 2023, the risk of a recession has declined during that time frame. So, if you’re considering a new job, there’s no reason to delay your search. 

2. Employees can expect modest raises

Sluggish wage growth is a persistent problem for workers, as salary increases lag behind price hikes in almost every other category. If you’ve looked at your grocery bill in disbelief lately, you’ve experienced this firsthand. U.S. employers say they plan to raise wages shy of 4% in 2024, which is slightly lower than the salary increases of 2023. 

You’ll probably get a modest pay bump if you stay in your job. If earning more money is your primary goal, you’ll have a better chance of landing a new position, usually with a pay increase of about 5 to 10%.

Are you being paid what you are worth?

Browse our salary data tool to know the current market value for your skills and labor!

3. Competition is stiff for remote and hybrid roles

Over the past 24 months, we’ve seen the adoption of permanent remote and hybrid roles become commonplace. Roughly 13% of U.S. employees work from home full time, while 28% work a hybrid model where they split their time between home and the office. 

While fully remote roles certainly exist, they’re in high demand. You can expect fiercer competition for a fully remote position than one entirely onsite. 

The following industries offer the best chance of finding a remote or hybrid position:

  • Computer and IT
  • Marketing
  • Accounting and Finance
  • Project Management
  • Medical and Health
  • HR and Recruiting
  • Customer Service

4. AI transforms jobs and their duties

Most experts agree that we’re still far from robots replacing humans in most jobs. However, artificial intelligence is transforming the way many traditional jobs are done. 

For example, AI-powered chatbots can help customer service representatives handle inquiries more efficiently. Predictive intelligence can help sales teams zero in on the most promising leads. This transformation will only continue in the year ahead, and workers poised to adapt (or already have some AI tools under their belt) will be at the greatest advantage. 

AI’s rise also means a new crop of job titles dedicated to creating the technology and exploring its implications, from the data scientists who build machine learning models to the AI consultants who help companies find creative ways to leverage the innovations. 

5. The freelance economy continues to expand

As of this year, an estimated 73 million Americans do freelance work. The normalization of freelancing means opportunities are abundant to supplement your full-time income and replace it outright. This is excellent news for workers seeking more independence. Arts and design, marketing, and computers/mathematics are the fields with the most considerable portion of freelance jobs, but roles are available in nearly every industry. 

The growing freelance economy also means employers are more used to seeing gig work on candidates’ resumes and are more likely to view freelance work as valuable experience. 

6. Demand strengthens for tech-forward skills

Now more than ever, companies need talented people who can help them utilize technology to accomplish goals, outsmart the competition, and better serve customers–and they’re willing to pay up for these capabilities. Tech-centric skills like data analysis, cybersecurity, and digital marketing have moved beyond their respective industries. They are now essential across fields, making job seekers who possess these skills highly competitive candidates. 

7. Increased focus on diversity, equity and inclusion

A growing awareness of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) has compelled many companies to incorporate these principles into their hiring strategy. This is good news for candidates who have traditionally been marginalized in the job market, like minorities and workers with disabilities. Watch for companies specifically promoting their DEI initiatives; KPMG, Microsoft, and Nike are a few examples. 

The increased focus on DEI also means a growing number of jobs in this arena, like HR representatives who help companies craft inclusive programming and educators who spread awareness of what equity in the workplace looks like.  

8. Hard-hit fields offer robust job opportunities

Though headlines of the past year touted that the pandemic is over, some industries haven’t fully recovered from its damaging effects. Healthcare, leisure, and the service industry are a few top examples where demand for talent dramatically exceeds the number of qualified and are interested candidates. 

Job seekers in these fields can use the situation to their advantage since employers are willing to pay a premium for talented workers who will stick around. If your skills are transferable across industries (think communications or customer service), switching fields into one with a staffing shortage could be a lucrative career move.

9. Continuous learning is essential

Amid the economic uncertainty, companies are looking for ways to do more with less, including staffing. Some employers are turning more heavily toward upskilling and reskilling existing staff in lieu of or in addition to recruiting new employees. They’re also more willing to provide training to coachable candidates versus hiring more established (and expensive) professionals who aren’t as malleable. 

If you’re looking for a job, you can make yourself more appealing by positioning yourself as a lifelong learner. Use your resume and interview responses to highlight how you keep your knowledge sharp and the initiatives you’ve taken on your own to pick up new skills. 

10. Employers seek soft skills

Technical skills are crucial, but soft skills are equally important in the eyes of employers. The pandemic was a dramatic indicator of the value of adaptability, and companies now recognize how soft skills like problem-solving and emotional intelligence can make the difference between success and failure during difficult times. 

In 2024, hiring managers will seek candidates who possess soft skills like communication, teamwork, and leadership and can demonstrate how they’ve leveraged those skills to achieve professional goals. 

2024 will be a new frontier for the job market in many ways. Though the most dramatic effects of the pandemic are in the rearview mirror, the economy and the companies within it still face the challenge of finding stability on an uncertain footing. For ambitious workers, it’s the perfect opportunity to show employers how you can be an asset with a combination of hard and soft skills, a welcoming attitude toward new technology, a dedication to continued learning, and a willingness to adapt.

Learn how to improve your soft skills in this guide!

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Pete Newsome is the founder of zengig, which he created after more than two decades in staffing and recruiting. He’s also President of 4 Corner Resources, the Forbes America's Best Staffing and Recruiting Firm he founded in 2005, and is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance. In addition to his passion for staffing, Pete is now committed to zengig becoming the most comprehensive source of expert advice, tools, and resources for career growth and happiness. When he’s not in the office or spending time with his family of six, you can find Pete sharing his career knowledge and expertise through public speaking, writing, and as the host of the Finding Career Zen & Hire Calling podcasts. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn