Labor Day Report: Employment Trends and the State of the Workforce

WorkersLabor Day celebrates the U.S. worker. It is a day intended for rest and relaxation, and for those of us tracking employment trends, it is a day of reflection and foresight.

Where We Have Been
The labor market, especially in New Hampshire, is closing in at full capacity.

Although, with an unemployment rate at a 15-year low of 2.8 percent, the last decade and a half has taught us that the market is anything but steady. It was a short 10 years ago when we were sitting on an employment and economic bubble, and it has been a slow, steady climb to recovery since then.

The national unemployment rate, while significantly higher than New Hampshire’s in terms of the total number of those unemployed, is at 4.3 percent. As a country, we have not seen an unemployment rate this low since the year 2000.

The Employment Situation complete with the latest unemployment numbers, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is due out on Friday, September 1.



New Hampshire Unemployment Rate National

Unemployment Rate

1997 3.3 4.9
1998 2.8 4.5
1999 2.6 4.3
2000 2.7 4.0
2001 3.5 4.6
2002 4.5 5.8
2003 4.4 6.2
2004 3.7 5.5
2005 3.6 5.0
2006 3.4 4.7
2007 3.5 4.7
2008 3.7 5.8
2009 6.6 9.5
2010 5.7 9.4
2011 5.4 9.0
2012 5.5 8.2
2013 5.0 7.3
2014 4.2 6.2
2015 3.3 5.2
2016 2.9 4.9
2017 2.8 4.3

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


Where We Are Going

According to analysis of Federal Reserve data by the advocacy group Young Invincibles, as laid out in an Associated Press report, the Millennial workforce is the first generation anticipated to earn less than the generation preceding them. They have a lower rate of homeownership than their parents and a drastically higher rate of debt – mostly attributable to student loans.

Millennials are also new car owners – but not in the traditional sense. For them, cars are not used for the family – like their parents used them for – but rather, they are a sort of side hustle. With the ability to earn extra income through car service apps like Lyft and Uber, Millennials have procured cars as an additional source of income.

But, the net worth of Millennials is a fraction of what their parents’ net worth was when they were the same age. Not to mention, the median household income of a Millennial is significantly less. Harvested from the same Federal Reserve data, it is estimated that the average Millennial earns $40,581 per year, a 20 percent decrease from what Baby Boomers made.

Closing Thoughts

It is impossible to predict what is about to happen next. As a country, it is widely understood that we are heading towards an employment correction – of some kind. Whether that takes the form of the unemployment rate going up as people shift from less traditional and part time employment into no work as they search for full-time positions, a salary adjustment, or a combination of the two, it really is anyone’s guess.

To combat this uncertainty, it is more important than ever before for employees to make themselves indispensable. Companies have been and will continue heading towards leaner workforces, and will look for employees who add value to the bottom line.

I advise the candidates and employees I work with to do regular audits – of themselves and of the business they are in. Evaluate responsibilities and determine how integral the function you perform is to a company’s overall success. Nobody is truly indispensable, but the more responsibilities and know-how you have, and the more value you bring to the company, the harder you will be to replace.

Treat the company as if it were your own, not just as a source of income. Think in terms of not just what you as an individual can doing better, but what your company should be doing better.

Historically, people have interpreted this advice as reason to get more degrees and certifications. And while those never hurt, it continues to be soft skills and a comprehensive understanding of the business that are timeless.