Some Hot Job Markets Persist. But Where?

Despite the signs of a slowing economy and growing worker jitters, some surprising corners of the job market are accelerating.

His people were sending mixed messages to the CEO. On the one hand, his finance department reported a weak economy, along with ballooning budgets for fuel, labor, and supplies. On the other, his CHRO described a red-hot job market in which openings for essential positions lingered, and in which filling some roles took courting and attractive offers.

This is the scenario facing executives around the globe, with some jobs as hot as ever despite firms slowing down their hiring. In niches like professional services and hospitality, Bureau of Labor and Statistics figures show hiring rates at double to triple the national average. “It feels like we’re coming out of the craziness, but a lot of companies still have pockets where attrition is high,” says Lenka Burnett, vice president for global client services at Korn Ferry. If companies can’t fill jobs, she continues, they can’t hit growth targets and compete in the global marketplace. “Or even maintain the status quo,” she says.

To be sure, the hiring market is relaxing. “Employers are calling the shots again,” says Jacob Zabkowicz, general manager of global RPO at Korn Ferry. “They’re gaining back control.” But recruiters are still seeing heavy demand for roles typically hired in high volumes, such as hourly employees in retail and food service. Construction managers and trade workers like welders and machinists are also sought after, in part due to the resumption of construction projects that the pandemic had delayed. What else is staying hot in cool times?

Life science and pharmaceuticals: Possibly the hottest white-collar market is here, in an industry that has benefited from pandemic diagnostics, testing, drugs, and vaccines. Engineers, scientists, and quality control experts are exceedingly in demand. The stakes are particularly high for roles in regulatory, compliance, and quality, which are essential to keeping production lines running and gaining FDA approvals or emergency-use authorization. “There are not enough graduates coming out of university for those niche roles,” says Burnett.

Supply chain professionals: They are also wanted, as companies face an ongoing need for cutting-edge thinking around operations, manufacturing, distribution, and service, says David Vied, global sector leader in Korn Ferry’s Medical Devices and Diagnostics practice. “It’s a hotly contested market, with offers and counteroffers.”

Tech, digital, and digital marketing: This space—in which smaller and less hip companies are fighting for talent with both well-known brands and start-ups—continues to rank among the most active hiring markets. Experts are not surprised to see tech sales and marketing roles surging, because executives prize highly talented sales staff. “In this environment, every deal becomes more valuable to close,” says Bradford Frank, senior client partner in the Technology practice at Korn Ferry. Security roles are also booming. “The bad guys do not take a break for a recession,” says Frank.

In life sciences, Burnett sees a stream of companies looking abroad to fill specialty positions, with hiring managers heading to countries like India a few times a year to staff up. Some companies are getting craftier, moving beyond standard practices—like attending university job fairs or creating prestigious internships—into direct engagement with students through offerings like resume workshops. “Smart companies are partnering directly with tutors, so they’re incorporated into courses,” says Burnett. And they’re priming the pump, he adds: “They’re also talking to 8-year-olds about STEM.”