Tight la­bor mar­ket gives work­ers clout

More Amer­i­cans switch­ing jobs, ca­reers

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Paul David­son | @Pdavid­sonusat | USA TO­DAY

More Amer­i­cans are switch­ing to dif­fer­ent in­dus­tries, and some­times even ca­reers, when they change jobs in a sign that the tight la­bor mar­ket is giv­ing work­ers more lever­age with em­ploy­ers.

Michael Fick has been job-hop­ping the past cou­ple of years — from gen­eral man­ager of a restau­rant to mort­gage loan orig­i­na­tor to busi­ness de­vel­op­ment spe­cial­ist for a com­pany that op­er­ates mo­bile and man­u­fac­tured home com­mu­ni­ties.

He says his restau­rant ex­pe­ri­ence — in cus­tomer ser­vice and over­see­ing a busi­ness — helped him land the other two sales gigs, which re­quired sim­i­lar skills. He now earns more than twice his restau­rant salary and works about 40 hours a week in­stead of 60, leav­ing more fam­ily time. But he also cites a more fa­vor­able mar­ket.

“Things were chang­ing and the mar­ket was get­ting bet­ter,” says Fick, who lives in Fern­dale, Mich. “There were cer­tainly op­tions out there.”

About half a mil­lion U.S. work­ers left one job for an­other in the fourth quar­ter, up from 406,000 in the same pe­riod in 2015 and 365,000 two years ago, ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates by pri­vate pay­roll pro­ces­sor ADP. That trend largely has been re­ported by the La­bor Depart­ment and re­flects a more vi­brant job mar­ket.

But ADP, which, un­like La­bor, can track em­ploy­ees as they move among jobs, also finds that more of them are shift­ing into new sec­tors, such as a mar­ket­ing man­ager who leaves re­tail for fi­nance. In eight of the 10 ma­jor in­dus­tries tracked by ADP, the share of job-switch­ers who came from a dif­fer­ent in­dus­try in­creased from late 2014 to late 2016 while the share swap- ping jobs within the same in­dus­try fell. That’s up from seven of 10 sec­tors that met that cri­te­ria in the third quar­ter.

For ex­am­ple, 45% of work­ers switched jobs within health care in the fourth quar­ter, down from 51% two years ear­lier. Mean­while, the share of new health care work­ers who pre­vi­ously worked in pro­fes­sional and busi­ness ser­vices in­creased to 17% from 15%, and the por­tion who had worked in the in­dus­try group­ing that in­cludes re­tail, trans­porta­tion and util­i­ties rose to 15% from 13%.

ADP han­dles pay­rolls that cover about 20% of pri­vate-sec­tor work­ers and says it uses that data to make es­ti­mates for the en­tire pri­vate la­bor force.

While the data can be volatile, staffing com­pa­nies say the trend mir­rors what they’re seeing. Af­ter the re­ces­sion of 2007 to 2009, em­ploy­ers had their pick of un­em­ployed work­ers and many in­sisted on hir­ing those who had prior ex­pe­ri­ence in the same in­dus­try. Now, with the un­em­ploy­ment rate near a 10-year low at 4.8%, many em­ploy­ers are strug­gling to find job can­di­dates and are be­ing far less se­lec­tive.

“They’re hav­ing to as a re­sult of ... a lack of avail­able tal­ent,” says Amy Glaser, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of Adecco Staffing. A grow­ing num­ber of banks and re­tail­ers, for ex­am­ple, are hir­ing restau­rant gen­eral man­agers to over­see branches and stores, she says.

The trend is also be­ing

driven by risk-tak­ers who are more con­fi­dent they’ll find a new po­si­tion and are less fear­ful of be­ing laid off.

“Em­ploy­ees are in the driver’s seat and are able to steer their ca­reers in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions,” says Sunny Ack­er­man, vice pres­i­dent of Man­power U.S.

While most work­ers who switch to a dif­fer­ent in­dus­try stay in the same oc­cu­pa­tion, a grow­ing num­ber are hop­ping on dif­fer­ent ca­reer tracks, staffing ex­ec­u­tives say. (ADP’s data doesn’t dis­tin­guish be­tween em­ploy­ees who change ca­reers and those who sim­ply switch to a dif­fer­ent sec­tor.) Some low- and mid-level man­u­fac­tur­ing work­ers are mov­ing to call-cen­ter cus­tomer ser­vice jobs, Ack­er­man says. And fast-food cashiers are be­ing eyed for the ware­house jobs that have pro­lif­er­ated with the ex­plo­sion of on­line shop­ping, which re­quires rapid de­liv­ery from dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ters.

Both po­si­tions de­mand em­ploy­ees who are com­fort­able work­ing odd hours in a fast-paced en­vi­ron­ment and can use tech- nol­ogy, whether com­put­er­ized cash reg­is­ters or bar­code scan­ners, Glaser says.

To smooth such tran­si­tions, more em­ploy­ers are of­fer­ing to train newly-hired work­ers, Ack­er­man says, af­ter scal­ing back such ca­reer de­vel­op­ment in the wake of the re­ces­sion.

Mil­len­ni­als are ben­e­fit­ing most from the more fluid job mar­ket. Af­ter the down­turn, many young adults fresh out of school were forced to take jobs for which they are overqual­i­fied. Now, they’re mov­ing “to po­si­tions more suited to their ed­u­ca­tion and skill sets,” says Mark Zandi, chief econ­o­mist at Moody’s An­a­lyt­ics, which helps ADP com­pile its data.

That, he says, can help bol­ster pro­duc­tiv­ity, which has been slug­gish in re­cent years, partly be­cause of mis­matches be­tween worker skills and job re­quire­ments. Higher pro­duc­tiv­ity can strengthen eco­nomic growth. Job switch­ers are also in­creas­ing their in­come more sharply than work­ers in the same job. Among full-time work­ers, job switch­ers over­all net­ted a 5.1% in­crease in pay in the fourth quar­ter from a year ear­lier, com­pared to 4.3% for job hold­ers, ac­cord­ing to ADP.

“Em­ploy­ees are in the driver’s seat and are able to steer their ca­reers in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions.” Sunny Ack­er­man, Man­power U.S.

GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

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