The U.S. job market was showing a strong recovery in the first half of 2021. But things had to slow down in the second half due to the emergence of the new COVID-19 variant – Omicron. Last year, many of us expected the world to return to normalcy, but with the rise of new variants, there’s more volatility than expected. This level of volatility may only increase in 2022 for the U.S. job markets.
Let’s look at what may be in store for the job market in the U.S. this year.
Labor Force Participation
The labor force participation rate, i.e., the share of Americans either looking for work or already working, was mostly stagnant in 2021. In 2022, the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic will continue to discourage job seekers from applying for jobs. However, as the savings of households begin to diminish, some sidelined workers may seek out employment as their unemployment benefits fade.
The U.S. continues to witness ‘The Great Resignation’ as an increasing number of workers are quitting their jobs, pay to be the likely primary reason. 4.4 million workers quit their jobs in September 2021. The number dipped to 4.2 million in October, only to rise again to a record 4.5 million in November. This trend does not seem to be going anywhere, as many workers are quitting their jobs before they even have another one lined up.
Remote work became a norm in Spring 2020 and is here to stay. Employers that don’t offer the flexibility to embrace remote work models will see increased employee turnovers in 2022. There has been a significant rise in the number of office job ads mentioning remote work. This is more noticeable in finance, insurance and computer-related occupations. The increase was also seen in clerical and office support occupations.
Shorter Work Weeks
The companies that can afford to offer an increase in compensation to their workers are doing all they can to retain their talent in today’s market. Compared to a historical norm of 2%, year-to-date salary increases have been more than 4% in the U.S. But, the companies who are unable to compensate for talent financially are likely to keep the compensation flat and reduce the number of hours worked. In 2022, we may likely see 32-hour workweeks with the same compensation to compete with organizations with regular 40-hour work weeks and higher pay.
2021 saw strong demand for workers coupled with a very low supply which resulted in solid wage increases for the labor force that showed up. In 2022, the situation is likely to change as more labor enters the workforce and slow the pace of wage growth. However, workers are still likely to maintain much of their bargaining power, more so because of the inflation growing by the most since the 1980s. Looking ahead, most job seekers are positive about receiving raises from their employers.
The U.S. job market is expected to see a mixed picture that will shape the workforce in 2022 and beyond.