Homebuyers may have missed their chance to lock in super-low interest rates, but the window of opportunity for job-seekers remains wide open.
Texas has more people working than ever before, and Dallas-Fort Worth added 255,000 jobs in the last 12 months — roughly two-and-a-half times the usual pace. Yet employers are still clamoring for more help.
In September, Texas had nearly 1.03 million job openings, the most ever and nearly twice the number before the pandemic, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That translates into almost 1.8 openings for every unemployed Texan.
For those already working, a million job openings offer a great shot at trading up.
“It’s still a really good time to apply and be active — if you’re looking for something new,” said Thomas Vick, Dallas-Fort Worth regional director of Robert Half, a major staffing firm. “A lot of candidates are still very comfortable looking for another job. And they’re quickly realizing how many opportunities are out there because they’re getting phone calls from people like us on a daily basis.”
This is the busiest time of year for his staffing business, he said. Many companies have budgeted money for new hires in 2022, and managers want to fill slots before the calendar turns. Workers often have a lighter schedule during the winter holidays, so it’s easier to talk with candidates and bring them in for interviews.
And it’s a seller’s market, Vick said: “You can be pretty commanding when it comes to salary and what you’re looking for.”
In the U.S., median wages grew 6.4% through October, according to a wage tracker by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Those switching jobs typically got a premium, and their median wage gain was 7.6% over the same period.
“Those who switch jobs often get a much larger pay increase,” said Mallory Vachon, senior economist at ThinkWhy, a Dallas-based software services company that focuses on jobs and pay.
Some tech giants recently announced major layoffs, including Facebook parent Meta cutting over 11,000 jobs and Amazon cutting about 10,000. Those moves made national headlines, and the large layoffs have a big impact on those directly affected, Vachon said.
But the broader job market continues in expansion mode because companies are hiring.
“Given how much demand is still out there, it seems like most of those workers will not be unemployed for long,” Vachon said. “There’s enough demand to make up for the cuts.”
Some hard-hit job sectors during the pandemic are among the growth leaders now. Leisure and hospitality, which includes restaurant and hotel workers, increased jobs by 14% in Dallas-Fort Worth for the 12 months ended in October. Construction, mining and logging, which includes the oil and gas business, was up 9%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In an October survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, more than half of Texas executives said they were trying to hire or recall employees, and 63% were understaffed. The No. 1 impediment to hiring? A lack of applicants.
One restaurant and bar cannot fill many positions despite continuing to increase pay: We’re “ unable to be open seven days because of a shortage of employees,” an executive told the Dallas Fed.
A tech exec said the information technology sector still cannot recruit enough talent, adding: “ We see no change in this soon.”
Two additional data points drive home the strength of the job market: Both layoffs and unemployment remain relatively low.
Texas companies had 111,000 layoffs in September, nearly 40% fewer than in an average month in 2019. D-FW had a 3.4% unemployment rate in October, down from 4.2% a year ago. Unemployment is low enough to make hiring difficult and dampen prospects for growth.
“Our production constraint has shifted from supply chain to labor,” a transportation equipment maker told the Dallas Fed. “ We cannot hire fast enough to increase production as fast as we would like to.”
That could change if the economy slows, and many are predicting a recession next year, including JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.
That could represent a buying opportunity for some employers, said Jay Denton, chief analytics officer at ThinkWhy.
A downturn could boost the talent supply and slow wage inflation, he said, and that would improve options for many hiring managers.
“If you are in a business or department that is growing, you will likely find more candidates within your budget,” Denton said.
He has different advice for job-seekers, given the risk of a downturn: Tread carefully — and do your research.
While a company may maintain the same number of total jobs, there can be significant churn in some departments. Work hard to understand the outlook for the department as well as the company, he said. Ask a lot of questions about the new role — and keep pay raises in perspective.
“Be careful trying to chase a big paycheck because layoffs are likely to increase, and the last people hired are often the first to get cut,” Denton said.