How to Make a Tight Labor Market Work For You

How to Make a Tight Labor Market Work For You

It’s an employee’s market – at least when it comes to jobs. Unemployment is at its lowest in seven years and many companies are scrambling to fill positions for skilled workers.

According to a recent survey by the National Association for Business Economics (NABE), 35 percent of the economists surveyed reported their firms had seen shortages of skilled labor during the quarter ending in July. And earlier that month, the National Federation of Independent Business said that 44 percent of small businesses looking to hire reported few or no qualified applicants for positions they were trying to fill.

With so many Americans still struggling to find well-paying jobs, what’s going on here?

One factor fueling the tight labor market is a shortage in actual skilled laborers. As more and more work becomes entwined with computers and other technology, jobs that once required little or no training now call for workers with technological skills or other specialized training.

The recovery has also been stalled by a lackluster growth in wages. The NABE survey found that only a 49 percent share of companies were anticipating wage increases in the next three months, up a meager three percent from the April poll. This might suggest that companies aren’t offering the right incentives to lure workers.

But even though employers may not voluntarily be offering desirable salaries or perks, this doesn’t mean they aren’t available. In some ways, skilled workers are in an enviable position. With fewer competitors, they have more leverage to negotiate a better salary.

Of course, not all industries are facing shortages, so it’s important to do your homework beforehand. As long as you’re well informed about the position and can make a convincing case for your value, you should definitely try to get as much as you think you’re worth.

But pay is only part of it. A little imagination can yield perks and benefits as attractive as a high salary – things such as flextime, job sharing, or opportunities for career advancement down the road. Maybe the company has offices in a different city where you’d love to work eventually. Maybe they can offer a pay increase after a six-month period or tuition reimbursement.

Sometimes a tight labor market can put a coveted job at company of your dreams within reach. In this case, it’s not the high salary, so much as your foot in the door that counts. The key is to look for solutions and alternatives without being pushy, greedy or unrealistic.

As always, don’t discount things such as work place culture and the personality and working style of your supervisor. No matter how prestigious or lucrative a job is, it doesn’t mean anything if you’re not happy. Use this opportunity to find a job that fits all of your requirements – personally, financially and professionally.

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Nicole Cavazos writes about the job market for ZipRecruiter.

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