America’s Job Market Today: The Good and the Bad

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Job creation continued to increase in 2015 but at a significantly slower pace in March, with non-farm payrolls at a seasonally adjusted rate of 126,000. The unemployment rate was flat, at 5.5%, not a positive sign generally. Manufacturing, capital investment, and consumer spending all performed weakly, as well, possibly in part because of gas prices making a slight comeback and the winter weather hampering certain industries.

However, the news isn’t all bad. Despite the signs of slowing growth and recovery in the immediate present, the general trend of American attitudes toward the job market and overall economic health has been rather positive. While it’s true that winter may have had an effect on job growth and even the strength of the dollar, which continues to stay strong despite a slight chill, the winter months are closing out, and confidence appears to be weathering the storm.

A recent Gallup poll showed that Americans are feeling more secure in their jobs. Only 13% of respondents said they believed it very or fairly likely that they would lose their jobs in the next year, a considerable drop from the 21% reached in 2010, during the recession. Based on historical trends, this poll appears to line up fairly accurately with periods of poor job market health; as the recovery has progressed, so, too, have perceptions of job security.

This is good for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it indicates overall improved attitudes about the U.S.’s economic health. This also increases the mobility and confidence with which employees approach their careers and other opportunities. Generally, positive sentiment opens up employees to leaving jobs they don’t find satisfying, or where the pay or hours are not ideal for their families or personal lives, which overall places them in a better bargaining position.

Job creation did subside a bit in March, but Gallup’s job creation index only serves to reinforce the fact that the general trend remains in the green. There are still a number of job-related factors that could change the game for workers. Increases in the minimum wage have been occurring slowly from state to state, and on a regional basis, there are continued protests and controversy surrounding fast-food workers’ pay.

There have also been some changes in the ways companies regard their policy on criminal backgrounds. Koch Industries — led by politically active billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch — is one of the largest private companies in the United States. That means that when the firm amends its policies, it makes a large impact on potential employees: quite a few, given that Koch Industries employs 60,000 individuals, according to USA Today.

Koch Industries employees will no longer deal with inquires during the interview process about criminal backgrounds, something other companies have been jumping on board with. This could help increase opportunities for those looking to get back into the job market who might otherwise have simply struggled against such a filtration process.

By opening the door to a wider group of applicants, not only do the economy and job searchers benefit, but companies, as well. In a different vein, there’s been a significant effort to hire veterans, a push that helps integrate formerly deployed military members and also helps attract talented professionals to the work force.

For those still looking to find their way into the job market, there are a number of fields that have being doing better than others, and it’s worth keeping an eye on which industries are the best for job hunters right now. Technology and health appear to be two fields that various ranking sites share a positive opinion on, from U.S. News and World Report to CareerBuilder (featured on MSN).

Nursing, software developing, and engineers — particularly mechanical engineers — are seeing job growth and good yearly wages, as are managing positions in the health field and Web developers. Computer and security analysts are both good fields to be getting into, as is the dental work industry.

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