I don’t know if you’ve noticed it… but we’re in a very unique situation when it comes to employment, unemployment and job availability.

job application and resume sitting on a desk next to a computer

How so?

We’ve just come out of a pandemic where many people saw themselves unemployed abruptly, for an extended period of time. And, depending on where you live and what circles you run in, you might come up with a simplified answer to this question.

At first glance, maybe you think it’s because people are receiving unemployment income and they aren’t inclined to go back to work. Or, perhaps it’s because you’re speculating that vaccination efforts have been disorganized and that has delayed a return to the workforce for those dealing with fragile health. Maybe you lost family members and a return to “normal” life is no longer possible – at least as you knew it before – and you’re struggling to figure out how to return to the workforce, or trying to decide what makes the most sense.

The standards of living have adjusted in the past year. Some families have encountered drastic changes in childcare needs and/or the ability to find childcare. Maybe their previous job was barely covering the costs of childcare and they are struggling to find a new job that supports their previous way of life. Perhaps someone else you know has realized what job attributes enable them to live their ideal life, and they have decided to hold out for a career that is set up to offer them that life.

And maybe there are other people who don’t feel the need to work, but before you take that statement at face-value know that there are at least two sides of the fence here; there’s group A that thinks people are getting so much unemployment income they don’t need to work, and there’s group B that knows someone who learned this year that it’s just not necessary for their household to have two full-time streams of income.

Regardless of what might or might not be true about the above situations, I think the reason we’re seeing so many open jobs right now goes deeper than that…

From an unemployment perspective, Kansas and Nebraska currently have two of the lowest unemployment rates in the great 50 states. In fact, Nebraska does have the lowest as of April 2021. But business owners and the employed workforce are still noticing an interesting trend when it comes to availability of jobs here in the Midwest. Everyone seems to be hiring. That includes fast food restaurants, grocery stores, warehouses, banks and many other professional fields as well. If there’s not many who are currently unemployed, but there’s a ton of available jobs, what’s happening? And, how do businesses combat the problems they are having keeping their businesses staffed?

One factor I’ve eluded to in some of the earlier scenarios is that we’re seeing an evolution of the workforce as well as the technology that powers it. The average day looks different than it did twenty years ago. For some businesses the average day looks much different than it did even a year ago. Schools, hospitals, and restaurants, to name a few, are all under much stricter policies and procedures to ensure your safety. Other businesses have drastically altered how they fulfill orders, whether it’s online or by offering curbside pick-up. All of those things change the structure of a job and employers are either shifting to accommodate these changes or they are trying to figure out how to do it.

At the core of this discussion, there is a shift in the American paradigm. And I know researchers have been saying that for a few years now, but it’s been especially obvious since the pandemic started. Maybe it’s just me, but in recent years I’ve noted a definite emphasis on family with much less focus on work. There’s lots of talk about work-life balance, and I even know young families who are bucking the system entirely in favor of a slower life. They’re abandoning goals of success and achievement in favor of a much different life. So, when you factor in those changes with the Baby Boomer generation showing up right on schedule for a much-deserved retirement, we’ve got the perfect recipe for massive change.

Didn’t I mention technology? Let’s talk about that. We’ve just come out of a pandemic, where we saw workers and businesses realizing that at-home work was actually a possibility. Many businesses sent workers home and didn’t see a decline in business. And, many workers saw that they could have a job at home and still “make it (life) work”. What does this mean for the jobs that require you to show up in person? Time will tell, but there will always be bountiful opportunity there because some jobs simply have to be done in person. It’d be hard to draw blood over a network connection.

Researchers are paying attention to trends though. Gallup reported in April of 2021 that 60% of U.S. workers, who worked from home during the pandemic, prefer to continue working remotely after restrictions are lifted.

So, how many people is that?

Statista recently reported that the remote workforce, those that work from home five or more days a week, went from 17% pre-pandemic to 44% post-pandemic. Whereas those that never work from home dropped from 47% to 34%. The rest of the population falls somewhere in the middle, balancing job that can be partially done at home and also spending time on location. The civilian workforce currently sits just under 161 million people in the U.S., so that’s around 70 million people who are currently working from home, and roughly 43 million of those people would prefer to keep working from home. Doing a little math, we can assume that means that around 27% of the total U.S. workforce currently works at home and prefers to work from home going forward. Statistics are hard to find for the population who has continued to work on-location throughout the pandemic, but maybe desires a change, so it’s hard to say percentage of that population might prefer work at-home versus on-location.

Something else to consider is how all of these changes are affecting mental health and wellness in our nation. And, there’s no doubt that it’s a piece of the puzzle.

It remains to be seen whether remote or non-remote work will have a greater effect on the mental health of the workforce. The CDC has been involved in conducting surveys throughout the pandemic to measure mental health and wellness, and one thing is clear according to the National Institute of Mental Health: there are substantial increases in self-reported behavioral health symptoms post-pandemic. They also reported that the pandemic did not affect Americans equally. Factors like being out of work, or experiencing hardship during the pandemic, greatly contributed to the risk for anxiety and depression as well as other behavioral issues, like substance abuse.

So, will we see the workforce and unemployment pendulum swing back and forth as we adjust to the supply and demand of jobs and workers and navigate a whole host of other challenges? Most definitely. And we’re likely to feel a little bit unstable during the process. The best thing we can do is be very conscious of our needs and not be afraid to take a chance at improving our own situations. Having the support of a job with co-workers who care and the daily, in-person support of that team can go a long way toward improving mental health. It’s important to pay attention to whether the lack of those interactions are contributing to problems or not.

If you’ve made it this far you’re likely thinking, “cnbamanda doesn’t have any answers, she’s just rambling”. And… I might be a little bit. But the point to this whole blog post is this: today, right now, is an excellent time and opportunity to make a change and the opportunities are numerous!

Whether you’re picking up an extra side job because you’re looking to boost your retirement, pay for some extras, catch up on debts, or improve your mental health, know that there is an overabundance of opportunities in our local communities. If you’re afraid to go back to work, know that there are employers who have put protections in place. If you’re interested in being part of a team who displayed an unwavering commitment to each other, and to the customers they served during the pandemic, know that there are businesses who have adapted and been there all along.

Central National Bank has locations in 23 Kansas and Nebraska communities. We, too, are experiencing some of the above-mentioned changes, but we’re fortunate to work for an employer who offers a safe place to learn and grow. We believe in investing in the staff, adapting to the changing times and building both our business and the communities we serve for the long-term. We’re proud of our history, confident about the future, and we have some great opportunities available!

Check out the Careers page on our website to see where there are openings near you at: https://centralnational.com/careers/  

Sources: https://news.gallup.com/poll/306695/workers-discovering-affinity-remote-work.aspx

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1122987/change-in-remote-work-trends-after-covid-in-usa/ https://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/director/messages/2021/one-year-in-covid-19-and-mental-health

The Job Crisis
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