Despite Thriving Economy, Job Seekers Are Lowering Salary Expectations

We recently uncovered an alarming statistic: in a survey of over 21,000 active job seekers on ZipRecruiter.com conducted in April, 23% said they lowered their salary expectations in order to increase their chances of getting a job.

In fact, among those we surveyed, asking for less money was the top strategy reported for boosting their job search. Our advice for those job seekers? Stop lowering your salary expectations. There are other ways to secure the job you want and the salary you deserve.

Still Living in the Past

A few different factors are likely contributing to this widespread phenomenon. Despite steady economic growth since the Great Recession, wages are still barely above pre-recession levels. Today’s record-low unemployment should indicate a tight job market, where employers are forced to offer better pay in order to attract and retain scarce talent, but that isn’t happening.

It’s likely that the culture of producing more while paying less cultivated during the recession persists today. Job seekers might still think they need to take a hit to their salary in order to get a job. Slow minimum wage growth might also be dragging down overall salary expectations.

But the reality is, there are simply more jobs than there are people to fill them in many top-paying industries across the country. That means lowering your salary expectations ought to be a last resort.

Don’t Ask for Less, Look For More

Only 7% of the respondents in our survey said they moved to an area with a better job market to increase their chances of finding a job. While remarkably low, this isn’t a surprise.

Job seeker mobility—a significant driver of wage growth—has been declining since the 90s. While the resistance to move for a job made sense within the old paradigm of the recession, in today’s market, moving is a practical option that can greatly increase the opportunity of finding a quality, well-paying job.

In fact, you don’t even need to move out of state to find greater job opportunities. We recently compared the top rural job markets to their urban counterparts and found that job seekers in rural markets had a much greater competitive advantage than those searching in the city. The Opportunity Index—the ratio of jobs to job seekers—was 6.8 in Upstate New York, compared to just 0.9 in the city center, for example.

This trend was consistent across all 10 job markets we studied. With so much opportunity available, there is absolutely no need to lower salary expectations.

There’s More Than One Way to Cast a Wider Net

Moving isn’t the only way to increase your chances of finding a well-paying job. Too often, candidates limit themselves to large, name-brand employers. But competition for these jobs can be fierce. Plus, it can also prove difficult to advance in a large, well-established firm.

Our recent research shows that small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) offer more jobs with high-paying job titles. In 2017, 40% of SMBs in the United States raised wages by more than 3%, which exceeds the national average for wage growth; 91 percent of SMBs with more that 20 full-time employees offered promotion opportunities.

These stats all add up to reveal there are big opportunities at smaller companies.

Know Your Worth

During the recession, companies had their pick of qualified applicants and could make a job offer to the lowest bidder. Today that is no longer the case.

With unemployment at an 18-year low, we are in the midst of a job market that offers applicants significant negotiating power. The more resolute prospective employees are in demanding a fair (even generous) salary, the closer we’ll get to finally seeing wage growth catch up to corporate profits.

Written by

ZipRecruiter's Data Journalist, Jeffery writes about emerging job market trends using proprietary ZipRecruiter data.

More Articles by Jeffery Marino