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The Labor Market in 2019 and What it Means for Employers

The Labor Market in 2019 and What it Means for Employers
Posted on Monday, January 21, 2019 by Jon Shanahan

The U.S. labor market has evolved in the wake of recent technological advancements, cultural shifts and policy changes.


Over the last few years, HR leaders have had to make major operational shifts, like integrating ACA administration, as well as more subtle changes, such as creating workplaces that are responsive to an increasingly diverse workforce.   

Understanding the factors that are affecting the labor market is a crucial strategy for HR leaders to keep their hiring practices competitive. Not only is it an effective tool for reaching important business goals and filling key positions, but it also demonstrates to current and prospective employees an awareness of the larger forces that influence their decisions about where to work.  

The labor market for 2019 looks strong, but economic and cultural forces will pose new challenges to employers. Here’s what to look for this year:   

  1. A tight labor market across all sectors. The U.S. unemployment rate hit a 49-year low of 3.7 percent in November 2018 and employers will continue to experience the impact of that low number throughout 2019. In past years, the discussion about low unemployment has focused on skilled workers. In 2019, however, that lens will have to be expanded: U.S. workers without a college degree are also experiencing low unemployment. With the pool of job seekers tightening across all sectors, employers of all kinds must differentiate themselves to attract the best candidates.
  2. Less international hiring. Employers who seek to hire skilled workers from overseas may have more difficulty filling open positions using the same means as in the past. In previous years H1-B visas, which allow U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations, have been a boon to hiring, particularly in the tech and healthcare fields. However, fewer H1-B applications are being approved now than in past years, thereby limiting the skilled job pool. This trend will put more pressure on HR professionals to attract qualified, sought-after domestic workers.
  1. Hiring procedures optimized for speed. As employers face pressure to fill open positions, many are relying on hiring software that utilizes automated AI systems to screen candidates. These systems ask job candidates key questions and the outcomes are routed to HR professionals, who decide how to proceed. While these systems can be effective tools for companies who must hire quickly, they also offer an opportunity for companies to differentiate themselves through empathy. Ensuring that AI-powered systems avoid hiring biases and that human recruiters conduct personalized follow-ups can make all the difference in securing a promising hire.
  2. Expansion and revision of diversity & inclusion programs. As movements toward diversity and inclusion continue to receive greater focus culturally, employers must pay deliberate, consistent attention to their efforts in this space. In a tight job market, prospective employees are more likely to select a position based on that organization’s alignment with their values. In 2019, hiring practices grounded with an awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion at all levels will create gains both for employees and the bottom line

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