What do US job seekers want? Higher pay and remote work


 It doesn’t happen very often, but thanks to the massive disruptions wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, workers in the United States are in the best position in decades to pick and choose the jobs they want. And increasingly, they’re interested in working for employers who are offering fatter paycheques and opportunities to work remotely.

That’s the finding of the inaugural Relative Job Seeker Interest metric from job-hunting site Indeed released on Thursday.

The metric, which captures the kind of positions workers are looking at, reveals the kind of businesses that are falling out of favor – and in favor – with job hunters.

Civil engineering, IT, and media jobs have seen the biggest surge in job seeker interest since the start of the pandemic, while childcare, warehouse positions, food services, and personal and home care have seen the sharpest declines.

By the numbers: Civil engineering and IT operations and helpdesk jobs have seen a 59 percent spike in interest since February 2020 – right before the pandemic started, while media and communications, as well as software development, have seen a 48 percent increase.

On the flip side, interest in childcare jobs is down more than 15 percent since February 2020. Interest in food preparation and service positions is down more than 18 percent; personal care and home health are down more than 33 percent and loading and stocking are down nearly 40 percent.

“Sectors, like loading & stocking, are substantially less interesting to job seekers now than pre-pandemic,” said AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab, in a press release. “That’s bad news for hiring in those sectors, where job postings have been rising for months.

“For sectors like personal care & home health and childcare, dampened interest-only aggravates existing hiring challenges,” she added.

Wages and flexibility

Perhaps not surprisingly, the metric revealed that the median hourly wage advertised in a job posting and whether the job can be done remotely “are positively and significantly related to changes in relative job seeker interest” wrote Konkel.

That trend, she points out, is making it tougher for businesses that pay lower wages and require in-person work that cannot be done at home.

“These employers have only one major lever: raising wages,” writes Konkel.

A record 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August, while the number of job openings – 10.4 million that month – was near all-time highs.

With so many jobs going begging, businesses – especially smaller ones – are scrambling to fill positions. Some 51 percent of small business owners said they had job openings they could not fill in September, according to the National Federal of Independent Businesses.

That has translated into fatter paycheques for workers. Average hourly wages in September were up 4.6 percent from the same period a year ago. But that did not keep pace with inflation. Consumer prices that same month increased 5.4 percent on an annualized basis.

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