Get Me A New Job, Fast

Six in ten job hunters now think they need to hurry up their search before a recession hits. A look at how quickly job-market sentiment is shifting for both job seekers and employers.

Over the last few months, more and more economists and business leaders have been predicting a recession. It turns out that most employees expect one, too—a development which likely will have an impact on both job seekers and employers.

Eight in ten job seekers expect the US to enter a recession in the next year, and nearly half anticipate that the job market will get worse over the next six months, according to a new survey of more than 11,000 job seekers from the online job-posting service Joblist. Further, 60% of job seekers feel they need to speed up their search before market conditions change.

Experts say those job seekers are finding an increasingly bifurcated market. For lower-wage jobs, employers are still desperate for new recruits. “There’s not a multiunit business that I walk into where there isn’t a hiring sign on the door or at the register,” says Sheila O’Grady, senior client partner in Korn Ferry’s Consumer practice. The quest also continues for in-demand skills such as data analytics and nursing.

But things are tightening up quickly in many other places. In the last month, multiple firms have cut back on hiring, or have frozen positions that are open. Experts say there is a sense that companies are circling the wagons, reluctant to spend on mid- and senior-level positions unless absolutely necessary. “If they don’t need it, they won’t spend it,” O’Grady says. Other experts say talent professionals are slowing things down out of concern they might hire the wrong person just as the economy softens.

The softening market, combined with the urgency of current job seekers, might restore some of the leverage employers lost during the Great Resignation. Organizations are starting to offer smaller raises and fewer bonuses, while also taking a stricter line on who can work from home. “Some benefits, like working fully remote, are being reserved for those who have their manager’s trust,” says Jacob Zabkowicz, vice president and general manager for Korn Ferry’s Global RPO business.

Still, by many accounts, the job market remains healthy. Nonfarm payrolls in June increased by 372,000, and the unemployment rate remained at a historically low 3.6%. Firms across industries might not have to offer a candidate a king’s ransom to come aboard, but that doesn’t mean they can stop offering raises entirely. 

Experts say job seekers might find the public sector to be a safe port before a potential economic storm. The number of open government jobs, both state and federal, has mostly held steady since the beginning of the year. There’s also an expectation that even more roles could open in the coming months, particularly for jobs in financial services, healthcare, and life sciences, says Wendy Monsen, president of Korn Ferry’s US Government Services practice. “Public service is always stronger than the private sector during recessions,” she says.