Why is it so hard to find a job right now despite low unemployment?

Lynne Vargas, a special education instructor from Middletown, New York, is experiencing prolonged and seemingly fruitless hiring processes for three teaching jobs. She describes it as "ghost hiring" and has even questioned whether the positions are genuinely available due to the extended delays in the interview processes.

This frustration is not unique to Vargas. Despite the low US unemployment rate and relatively few layoffs, employers are taking longer to make hiring decisions and in some cases are posting fewer job openings. This marks a significant shift from the job market just a couple of years ago, where job seekers had more leverage.

According to Daniel Zhao, a lead economist at Glassdoor, US employers are making job offers at the slowest rate since 2014, reminiscent of the hiring challenges during the aftermath of the global financial crisis. This caution is attributed to concerns about the economy, with employers waiting for more favorable economic conditions before ramping up hiring efforts.

In fact, the average time it takes for employers to fill a position has increased from 40 days in 2019 to 44.5 days in 2023. The current job market is described by some as being in a "holding pattern," characterized by a reluctance to hire and fewer people quitting their jobs, resulting in limited movement within the workforce.

While sectors like healthcare and retail are actively seeking employees, many other industries are more focused on cost-cutting than expanding their workforce. This hiring hesitation can lead to protracted job interviews and a feeling of perpetually needing to apply for new positions.

Job seekers, such as Royal Siu and Kevin Cash, are experiencing the impact of this trend firsthand. Siu, a pharmacist based in Seattle, has applied to approximately 300 jobs without much success, while Cash, a Navy veteran with an MBA, has applied to over 1,200 jobs and is encountering a high rate of non-responsiveness from employers.

The term "ghosting" in the context of interview processes has seen a significant increase in mentions, indicating a growing trend of candidates being left without communication or feedback from potential employers.

While there is cautious optimism that inflation will moderate and the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates, job seekers like Vargas continue to feel trapped in a fruitless cycle of interviews. Despite this, some workers, like Jeff Calnan, who recently secured a job after a nine-month search, remain optimistic and are leveraging their skills and network to navigate the challenging job market.  

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