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Encouraging News for 50+ Job Seekers and Workers

What this Next Avenue blogger heard at the Indeed Interactive job conference

Just a few years ago, when unemployment hovered at 10 percent, employers had their pick of job candidates. Getting hired was tough. But now, with unemployment at 5 percent, it’s a candidates market.

That was just one piece of welcome news I heard last week while attending Indeed Interactive in Austin, Texas, an annual gathering of recruiting leaders and members of the media, eager to learn about the forces shaping the rapidly evolving labor market.

Since Indeed.com is the world’s No. 1 job site and the leading source of external online hires, it has a goldmine of job-related data. Combine that with Indeed’s proprietary research and you get a fascinating assessment of what’s happening in the job market and what you can likely expect in the near future.

Lots of jobs are disappearing as a result of technology and automation. But at the same time we see tons of jobs disappearing, millions more are appearing.

— Tara Sinclair, chief economist at Indeed

2 Takeaways From a Global Labor Market Report

First, the big picture. At the conference, I picked up a copy of Indeed’s Labor Market Outlook 2016, which looked at 12 countries, and came away with two key takeaways: 1) There is a growing disparity between the highest and lowest wage earners due to the growing specialization of the labor force and 2) Tech jobs are hot and increasingly challenging to fill.

“Lots of jobs are disappearing as a result of technology and automation. Up to 50 percent of U.S. jobs may be at risk due to automation,” Tara Sinclair, Indeed’s chief economist, said at the conference. “But at the same time we see tons of jobs disappearing, millions more are appearing.” Two examples of emerging industries, according to Sinclair: fitness wearables and virtual learning. Along with tech, health care is the “massive elephant in the job creation space,” Sinclair noted.

Sinclair emphasized that job seekers need to adapt to the constantly changing landscape. That means they need to look for ways to apply their skills in fields other than the ones they’ve been in and be open to picking up new skills. She cited the growth of short-term coding schools as one way job hunters can quickly improve their marketability.

3 Bright Spots for 50+ Job Seekers and Workers

Sinclair urged the audience of recruiters to adapt as well. I found three of her recommendations to them especially encouraging for job seekers and workers who are 50+:

1. Offer more flexible work opportunities  One way to attract and retain  talented boomers, Sinclair said, is allowing them to work flexible hours (including part-time) and remotely. Interest in flexible work arrangements is on the rise. At Indeed, searches for them rose 42 percent from 2013 to 2015.

Incidentally, contrary to popular belief that part-time and remote jobs tend to be low paying, low skill work, over half of the top 50 keywords associated with searches for flexible work are related to high-skill jobs — many of them in the hard-to-fill tech and health care fields.

2. Consider job candidates without college degrees  Sinclair admitted that as a college professor (she teaches at George Washington University), this was a tough recommendation to swallow. But she warned employers that it’s unlikely the pool of college-educated candidates will be large enough to fill job openings in the years ahead.

So if you’re looking for work but lack a college degree, you may soon have a better chance getting an employer’s interest.

3. Find ways to engage and retain older workers  Referring to the coming “Baby Boomer Bomb” (aka “the brain drain” due to massive numbers of boomers who’ll retire), Sinclair told the audience: “You are facing a looming shortage of talent, particularly as the baby boomers retire. By 2020, workers age 55+ will likely account for 25 percent of the labor force. If you think of all those people leaving the work force, it’s likely to have all sorts of economic repercussions. But if you can find ways to engage the older workers and transfer their knowledge to the young, that’s how you can help increase the economic pie in new ways.”

That’s appetizing news.

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