Inflation has pushed wages and prices far higher than they were a year ago. War in Europe has cast a pall over the world. The US economy is slowing down. But apparently, none of that matters right now, because so many firms still need nurses, research scientists, accountants—and a myriad of other workers.
Looking at the headline-grabbing job-market statistics that have rolled out over the past several days—517,000 new jobs added in January, unemployment at its lowest since the late 1960s—experts say it’s clear that short-term needs are being prioritized over long-term anxiety. “These organizations aren’t hiring because they think they’ll be busy in the future, they have jobs now that need to be filled,” says Juan Pablo Gonzalez, sector leader of Korn Ferry’s Professional Services practice.
January’s numbers outpaced the average monthly gain of 401,000 new jobs in 2022. Leisure and hospitality, health care, and professional and business services propelled job growth. At the same time, US companies collectively increased their number of open positions to more than 11 million, a level unseen since last July.
Experts say workers have either overcome their fears of getting sick at work or been attracted by significant wage increases, says Andrés Tapia, Korn Ferry’s global strategist on diversity, equity, and inclusion. The workforce participation rate has increased across gender, racial, and ethnic lines.
All this hiring comes even as headlines fixate on layoffs at large technology companies. Those firms have shed 150,000 jobs over the last few months. It’s a correction for tech’s 2021 and early-2022 hiring spree, which was based on the belief that skyrocketing demand for products and services during the pandemic would be maintained afterward. Consumer patterns reverted somewhat to their pre-pandemic ways, however, and investors in these firms started complaining that they had too many workers.
But even the industries that have been laying people off are still hiring, says Jacob Zabkowicz, Korn Ferry’s vice president and general manager of the firm’s Recruitment Process Outsourcing business. The big technology firms are so huge, they still have roles to fill. “It doesn’t mean that they aren’t hiring profusely in other parts of the business,” he says.
Those displaced tech workers might not end up unemployed for long. Life sciences and a slew of other industries desperate for top tech talent are trying to recruit them, Zabkowicz says. “These industries haven’t always been able to woo them, but now that they’re out of jobs, the companies have decided, ‘Why not go after them?’”
The lingering question, however, is whether Big Tech’s experience with overhiring was just an industry-specific event or a harbinger of things to come. Leaders across industries are taking notice of what tech is going through, says Dan Kaplan, a Korn Ferry senior client partner in the firm’s Chief Human Resources Officers practice, and they wonder if they’ll be stuck if the economic environment turns on them. Yet most have continued hiring. “They just have open jobs they need to fill,” he says.