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A market cool-down

Unemployment may be low right now, but it has been lower recently. In January 2023, the unemployment rate hit 3.4% — its lowest number since May 1969, according to the Department of Labor.

The 0.3% increase in one year may not seem like a lot. But to young people on the hunt for their first job it probably makes a big difference.

This is particularly true after the hiring frenzies that took place after the Great Resignation in 2021 and 2022. During this worker shortage, CNBC reports that retail stores and restaurants increased wages and benefits for employees.

But now, the job market is undergoing an “immaculate cooling,” according to an August 2023 X post from Harvard economist Jason Furman.

So even though the job market is still strong, it feels much harder than the previous years. For a young person without much experience applying for jobs, this can be a humbling experience.

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Tech layoffs have increased

Santos doesn’t mention whether or not she applied for tech jobs before going on her in-person job hunt. But if she did, she may not have had much luck.

Over 34,000 tech employees have been let go from companies like Google and Amazon so far in 2024, according to tracking website Layoffs.fyi. Companies prioritizing and investing more in AI contributed to this, per experts speaking with Reuters.

Even highly skilled tech workers are having trouble finding new jobs after they get laid off, according to The Washington Post.

But there is good news for all the laid off tech workers: other fields are willing to pick up skilled workers for themselves. Aerospace, health care and education want the workers who cut their chops in tech, according to CNBC.

Workers want different things now

The job market has also changed due to worker demands. Because of the worker shortage in 2021 and 2022, workers have more power than they used to.

This also means that employees expect more from a job — particularly new ones. As Gen Z has started to enter the workforce, they’ve learned that a 9-5 job can be boring and tiring.

Over half of Gen Z want to be an influencer, according to a recent study from research firm Morning Consult — including Santos, who says: “I just want to be a TikToker.” They want the flexibility, the control and the personal fulfillment that come with this kind of job. BBC reports that some experts think this is making younger workers less willing to take jobs because they don’t fit this model.

Santos is probably on track to achieving her TikTok dreams. She has 160,500 followers on the app and her videos regularly go viral.

But until then, she marches on with her job search.

“I literally need to make money,” Santos says. “So I’m just going to keep trying.”

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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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