“The crowning fortune of a man is to be born to some pursuit which finds him employment and happiness…” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
It would take two hands to count the number of times I’ve been “ghosted” as an employer.
That’s the not-so-new-but-apparently-getting-worse phenomenon in which someone accepts a job interview — or even accepts a job — and then never shows up for the interview or for the first day of work. Recent Wall Street Journal reporting suggests between 15% and 20% of new hires never show up for their first day.
It’s getting weird out there, folks. I’ve been working since age 15, and I’ve never seen it like this.
I saw an interesting tweet recently in which someone had taken quotes from newspaper articles going all the way back to the 1890s. Every story quoted someone saying some variant of “people just don’t want to work anymore.”
The tweet meant to make the point that you can’t blame today’s weird labor market on some supposed laziness of the modern workforce. Either people have never wanted to work, or employers tend to make workers into scapegoats for more complex issues.
So which is it?
First, some facts:
∫ While a recent Washington Post story says the labor market’s starting to show cracks, with anecdotes of some big firms either laying people off or freezing hiring, the job market right now is strong. The American unemployment rate is back to pre-coronavirus pandemic levels, at just under 4%.
∫ However, the labor force participation rate — the share of the working-age population either looking for work or working — is down. It stood at 62.2% in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared to 67.3% in 2000.
∫ The US Census Bureau says Americans are getting older and older Americans are far less likely to look for work. The labor force participation rate for those 65 to 74 (a growing share of the population) was about 27% in 2019, compared to 78% for those 20 to 64.
Those three facts say a lot about why companies have a hard time finding employees. It’s not that people don’t want to work, it’s that they’re already working or are retired.
But that’s not all employers complain about.
Employers are also getting ghosted, and we’re in the midst of what some call the Great Resignation, with record numbers of employees quitting their jobs.
The biggest reasons people quit their jobs, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey, are that they felt they were paid too little, had no opportunity for advancement, or felt disrespected at work. People also quit because of child care issues, inflexible hours, or because they disliked the benefits offered by the employer, among other reasons.
And, according to therapists who spoke to a CNBC reporter for a recent story, the pandemic opened people’s eyes to the fragility of life and shifted their priorities. While working once factored heavily into people’s personal identities, the fear of the pandemic shifted their focus to family and other more sentimental areas of life. The comforts of working from home during the worst of the pandemic further cemented their affinities for their personal life over their work life.
So, essentially, it’s a job-seeker’s market, with more job openings than workers to fill them, in part because workers are aging out of the system. That’s giving workers more power over their own destinies at the same time workers’ priorities have shifted from simply wanting a job to a paycheck to wanting a job that provides them the flexibility to enjoy more of the work-home balance they enjoyed during the coronavirus pandemic .
To some, that might be people who “just don’t want to work.”
To others, that’s simply workers demanding things from their jobs that they were due all along.
I agree workers are entitled to certain things. They absolutely should feel respected at work, and they’re due fair compensation (although “fair” is in the eye of the beholder).
And workers have every right to look for a job that’ll make them happy while they earn their paycheck.
But any job is better than no job.
And this worker’s market won’t last forever. Eventually, the tides will shift and there’ll be more workers than job openings.
It’s unwise for folks to burn bridges by quitting without a two-week notice or ghosting an employer.
Justin A. Hinkley can be reached at 989-354-3112 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JustinHinkley.