The Recession Is Here And There But Not Everywhere: Getting (And Staying) Hired In 2022


Every month in 2022, about 388,000 jobs are added in the U.S. In July, that number hit 528,000 as unemployment dropped to 3.5%—a half-century low. The figure came as something of a surprise. Two previous quarters of negative growth had nobody projecting a number this high. Supply chain crunches are also far from over. And consumer spending is down. So, was this good news from a resilient job market? Or a final jolt before the deep freeze hits?

A touch of both. External shocks continue to dictate labor market realities. Some sectors, such as hospitality, are still on the Covid-19 rebound. Others, including utilities and energy, are gaining on geopolitical grounds. And some, like the recently flourishing tech sector, continue to tumble. So, yes, multiple sectors bucked the trend of economic slowdown. But it would be against the odds if they kept it up.

Retail’s year-on-year hiring rate is down nearly 10%. A troubling series of 46 separate safety recalls on close to 7 million vehicles spelled disaster for a single automaker. And tech shares plummeted in June. The outcome: Twitter, Oracle, Robinhood, Walmart and Ford are among those announcing large-scale layoffs. Even hiring giants such as Google have hit the pause button on increasing their headcount.

The 32,000 layoffs in July 2022 in the tech sector point in one direction only. Currently, as few as 9% of tech workers are feeling secure in their job. So, then, what are the sectors driving the growth in job creation? And what can employees do to stay hired as a fresh wave of uncertainty sweeps across swathes of the labor market?

What Lies Beyond The Tech Hubs?

Close to a fifth of July’s hiring figures were down to hospitality and leisure at 96,000 jobs added. A close second, with 89,000 jobs added, was professional and business services. Larger gains also came from health care (70,000 jobs added), government (+57,000), construction (+32,000) and manufacturing (+30,000). So much for the absolute numbers answering where growth is taking place. What about the rate of participation that suggests who’s clocking into these jobs?

According to reports, “Latinas and other women of color are often overrepresented in the services sectors” that added the most jobs of any. No surprise that labor participation rates are up for this demographic. Less positive amid the strong showing was the figure of increased unemployment for Black men, but 5.7% is still a cut above the national average.

Turmoil And Gas

Much like there’s a world after Covid-19, there will be a world after the ongoing war in Ukraine. In the way that lockdowns fueled the growth of streaming services, videoconferencing and e-commerce, the current conflict in Eastern Europe is playing its part in pushing energy company stocks to new heights. The earnings season confirms this with record figures. Some energy giants will post their best quarters on record.

But it’s not all oil and gas. It’s energy across the climate-friendliness spectrum. The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act is a strong pointer in terms of where job growth will continue to happen when peace (and more affordable gas prices) return.

Solar and wind technicians will be in no short demand as public funds seek to stimulate the renewables sector for the long haul. Battery technology to lift the electric vehicle (EV) sector to its required scalability will be another key growth area. That growth area will likely fuel the pivoting automotive sector. It can also help solve the dilemma of renewable intermittency as we continue to wean ourselves off fossil fuels.

The Best Way Is To Upskill

As fears loom that the “r” word will go global, concerns of a sustained slowdown are becoming very real. Although no job is recession-proof, there’s always more that employees can do than letting the job market decide their fate.

Your resume is a living document. It needs to be far more than the sum of tasks and responsibilities assigned to you during your tenure at your latest employer. The number of ways to add to your skill and knowledge base through courses, certifications and training has never been greater or more easily accessible.

Does your employer set aside a budget for employee training? Or are there relevant free courses you can enroll in? There’s no level of seniority exempt from the benefits of continued learning or an upgraded CV.

Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow

Upskilling goes further than dressing up a CV and rising above the red ocean. Take the employer perspective. Upskilling your team can mean shaping your organization’s next leaders. Succession planning that looks in-house is a smart move in times of hiring freezes. Avoid watching senior team members step down or retire during a downturn only to leave behind a team of talented but unprepared would-be successors.

Doubling Down

July’s numbers were a boost—no doubts there. But a closer look under the hood reveals that a lot of the growth stems from sectors still bouncing back from the Covid-19 blow to the jaw they took in 2020. We’re only just back to pre-pandemic levels of employment—a healthy rebound, true, but with signs of slowdown already in plain sight. Indeed, some of those employment figures that are being praised across the board are explained away by people taking on second jobs to make ends meet in inflationary times.