The Bureau of Labor Statistics' Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) provides historical data on monthly openings going back to 2000. In the 21 years of the 21st century, no other time has even come close to matching the approximately 9.2 million open job listings available through May 2021.
That makes sense. While this century has seen its share of historical economic ebbs and flows — with a recession in 2001, the worst dip since the Great Depression beginning seven years later, stock-market crashes, and wars — nothing in more than a century compares to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Plummeting unemployment by simple virtue of people not being able to work in an effort to curtail the virus' spread caused a deep economic dive. As 2020 gave way to 2021, however, and availability of the COVID-19 vaccine increased, the economy has rebounded more aggressively than Dennis Rodman with the Chicago Bulls (a little shoutout to those who watched The Last Dance during last year's lockdown).
At 2021's midway point, unemployment dropped to 5.9% — an improvement from the height of the pandemic, to be sure, but still with room for growth. The unprecedented amount of job openings, meanwhile, suggests it's only a matter of filling vacancies to return to, if not exceed, pre-pandemic employment numbers.
Couple those openings and steadily improved hiring in recent months with a surge in consumer confidence, and the remainder of 2021 is an especially favorable time for job seekers. The Conference Board released its findings on consumer confidence at the end of June, citing across the board increases.
These assorted factors point to an opportune time for job seekers to consider their options. The year-plus of pandemic conditions resulted in changes to how many of us approach work, whether it was more thoroughly embracing remote work or finding more schedule flexibility. Of the nearly 300,000 jobs in the CareerCast database, around 12,000 expressly allow for remote work.
However, one of the benefits of a seeker's market is the power to negotiate. Remote work can absolutely be a negotiating point during the post-interview process for a job that doesn't need a physical presence — or, because the key to negotiation is compromise, perhaps finding a hybrid schedule that works.
Other benefits job seekers can leverage from the current market range from the conventional, like pay, to more modern like worked-in schedule flexibility that factors family time. As schools reopen in the autumn of 2021, getting children to and from classes, after-school programs and such will start to become a greater burden for a much higher percentage of the workforce than it was in the previous year.