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Job market

Data posted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates the U.S. is in the midst of a strong job market and has been since the pandemic has wound down. Unemployment was fairly low at 3.8% in March, and has been hovering around this number for the last two years.

But these numbers don’t necessarily reflect job seekers’ experiences. Ildefonso claims she sent out 150 applications over four months before securing a job as a research scientist at the University of California San Diego.

There appears to be a discrepancy between what the numbers say and what job seekers are experiencing firsthand. Even high-quality candidates seem to be having trouble finding suitable jobs.

These are some of the obstacles that Ildefonso — and other job-hunters who don’t have Ph.D.s — are up against.

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Company cost-cutting

Ildefonso became unemployed in the first place due to company restructuring. She shared in another one of her videos that she had been hired by Pfizer. Yet, four days before her role began, the company called to tell her that they were eliminating her role due to reorganization. She had left her previous job after lining this one up with the pharmaceutical company.

Ildefonso believes Pfizer cut out her role as a cost-cutting measure. Demand for the company's COVID-19 vaccine and Paxlovid treatment drug have dipped, leading to a lower revenue forecast.

Over 90,000 jobs cuts were announced across the U.S. in March — a 7% increase from February, according to a report by leadership development and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

The report adds that the main reasons for these cuts were “cost-cutting” and “restructuring.”

Long hiring cycles

Ildefonso had relocated specifically for the job at Pfizer. She and her husband had already signed a new lease when she was told her position was eliminated. Without the income she was anticipating, they struggled to pay rent.

“When you sign a lease, you just can’t get out of it,” she said.

Ildefonso knew that she needed to find a job — fast. But that's easier said than done. A company will operate on its own schedule, which means the hiring process can be slow. In addition, a company may take its time hiring the right person if it's a position of responsibility.

She may hold a doctorate in biology, but Ildefonso's experience, while disheartening, wasn't that unusual. According to the BLS reports that unemployed Americans remain without a job for an average of 22.3 weeks (5.5 months) as of March.

Most states also offer up to 26 weeks (six months) of unemployment insurance, per the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. However, the benefit amount varies from state to state, same with eligibility requirements.

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Sabina Wex is a writer and podcast producer in Toronto. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Fast Company, CBC and more.

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