A recession probably won't affect your job market


There is a lot of hoop-la over the recession. Or coming recession. Or statistical but maybe-not-really recession. But the truth is that the job market is just fine, especially for the post-Baby-Boomer set.

The health of today’s job market is not so much a function of economic indicators as it is a function of demographic trends. There is a huge shortage of employees. Baby Boomers are retiring and Generation X and Y are less able to replace the Baby Boomers than had been anticipated; employers receive fewer hours of work per person from post-Boomers because of their focus on family (Generation X) and entrepreneurship (Generation Y). Due to these factors, the employee shortage is increasing, and only a knock-down-drag-out recession will change this sunshine outlook for employees.

Deloitte says that employees will be in high demand for the next decade, and that Deloitte’s growth strategy requires that they continue to recruit just as heavily now as they were before talk of a recession. And Forbes reporter Tara Weiss finds that other companies are reacting similarly.

Even in areas where the economic downturns are hitting the hardest — like finance, real estate and manufacturing — younger employees are in high demand.

I recently spoke with Ryan Sutton, vice president at the recruiting firm Robert Half, which specializes in the finance sector. Sutton said, “Demand will continue to be strong. It is so pent up over the years that it’s hard to say whether an economic downturn would really affect a company’s ability to catch up.” Polls conducted by Robert Half show that most companies will continue to ramp up hiring in finance.

In terms of real estate, Deloitte reports that almost 60% of people working in this market will be retirement age by 2010. And groups like Boston’s Urban Land Young Leaders see huge potential for careers in this industry, especially in terms of green building. The bottom line in real estate is that the economic problems are about home prices, not jobless claims: Just because your mortgage is exploding doesn’t mean your career is.

Another example is manufacturing, a sector that is officially in a recession, but that doesn’t mean there are no jobs. In fact, the industry is very focused on the shortage of workers and has ramped up recruiting efforts to attract young people via YouTube, MySpace and Facebook. The $70 million Dream It Do It campaign shows an industry in high-gear hiring mode, unfazed by the fears of recession.

So listen to talk of recession, but don’t let it get you down. There are a few precautions you can take in case you get laid off or downsized. But really, don’t decrease your expectations for your job just because housing prices are tanking and hedge fund managers are suffering. Many people are not convinced that the job market will be hugely affected by this activity.

Often times we get for ourselves what we expect from ourselves. So during talk of recession keep your chin up, and your expectations for your career up as well. This might just be a great time for your career.

47 replies
  1. Robert W.
    Robert W. says:

    Interesting blog. I discovered it via a link from Guy Kawaskaki’s. The timing of reading your blog is fortuitous for me. I’m from Vancouver, BC but am currently in Honolulu, enjoying a little R&R and some sunshine. I’m also reading “The 4 Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferriss. The main thesis is that is this wonderful, modern, technologically connected world anyone can do whatever they want. Your themes seem to be similar.

    I’m close to achieving that flexibility/freedom myself. Then I just need to cut some minor strings and I’ll be free to live where I want throughout the year.

    I’ve bookmarked your blog and will revisit it periodically. Great stuff throughout!

  2. Don B.
    Don B. says:

    You are right. If we find the right skills we hire and find the work. Good people with the needed skills are to hard to find.

  3. Another gal
    Another gal says:

    You’re right. Got out of B-school in 2002, at the height of the dot-com bust. Was told “are you crazy?” when I headed for Silicon Valley. Fast forward six years later–great job, great money, great career. If I hadn’t taken the risk during the downturn it wouldn’t have happened. There’s money to be made when economies move–up OR down.

  4. Dale
    Dale says:

    Today’s blog is important on many levels.

    Our lives are not governed by indicies.

    As a rule, I have found that while generalities (CPI, etc) may explain outcomes for the masses of society, on an individual level, we generally can chart our own courses in life – in everything.

    I believe that we are the sum of our experiences and genetic disposition – and in that order!
    As an individual, what I expect is what others will generally be inclined to give me. Sometimes others don’t get the message or I err in the delivery of it, but bye and large, if I expect something, and I go after it, it is just a matter of time before I achieve it. This works for things, goals, relationships…

    Go forth and conquer fellow careerists:)

    Just my two cents worth.

  5. Dan Schawbel
    Dan Schawbel says:

    I tell a lot of young individuals that if you focus on personal branding, you won’t have to worry about a recession.

    * * * * * *
    This comment comes from a personal branding maven, of course. But it’s worth noting that this is a great reason that personal branding is not optional in the new work place. It’s a stand in for economic stability.


  6. Matt @ Corporate Hack
    Matt @ Corporate Hack says:

    These are reassuring statistics in an increasingly unsure time. Though my company is currently going through upheaval and pending restructure – it’s a difficult season for my specific sector and workers of all ages are at risk. As you imply though, difficult seasons are the precise time when we need to buckle down and demonstrate to company leaders that we’re valuable assets… you are your own best job security.

  7. Reynolds Atkins
    Reynolds Atkins says:

    Agree wholeheartedly. The mainstream media continues to report this run-up to “recession” or whatever they end up calling this burst of bad behavior by mortgage brokers as though it was still 1995 and a surplus of workers was an ineradicable feature of doing business today.

    For the forseeable future, demographics is destiny, and while that is not to say that the next couple of years won’t be tough on businesses and consumers, it will not stop the exodus of Boomers from the workforce, the desire of Gen X employees for a more balanced life, and the aspirations of the Gen Y to build a working life different from those of either the Boomers or Gen X. None of these trends bode well for companies — and they still exist, particularly in aerospace, telecommunications, defense contracting, and manufacturing — who believe their command-and-control, “one-size-fits-all” management styles will help them attract and retain the types of employees they will need to compete with younger and more nimble firms in the future.

  8. Seth Mattison
    Seth Mattison says:

    To your point about the Dream it Do it campaign, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis ran an article on the front page of the business section on Monday talking about that program and how the manufacturing sector is struggling to find young talent. The Gov. is even speaking out about it.

    What I find interesting though is how what the manufacturing industry in Minnesota is doing runs parallel to what Seth Godin talks about in Meatball Sundae. You can’t just throw sprinkles on a business that makes meatball. Just because some manufacturing plant in Fargo has a myspace page doesn’t mean they have an enviroment that is set up to attract young talent. Wait to you get a friend request from your local manufacturing plant! Yuk!

    * * ** * *

    This is a great observation- and I like that you’re reporting from the grassroots of the manufacturing campaign. Thanks, Seth.


  9. Shefaly
    Shefaly says:


    With the ‘benefit’ of the Fed’s recent interventions, I wonder if any of this advice would change if we weren’t facing the R-word but rather the S-word (stagflation). All signs point to that but most people are too scared to bring it up for fear of precipitating a wholesale collapse brought about by hysteria. Although the first rush will be on the web, as many scramble to find out what stagflation is! In most people’s memories there has not been one, unless one discounts those who pay attention outside the western hemisphere.

  10. Miriam Salpeter
    Miriam Salpeter says:

    It seems like the operative word in this post is “probably.”

    The sources you note mostly predict a rosy future for “younger” workers. I think most of us in the career industry agree that leaders, well-branded professionals (as Dan points out) and flexible performers who are on top of their career plans should do fine.

    For those who do lose their jobs, especially Boomers who weren’t preparing to re-invent themselves or retire quite yet, the “recession” or “not recession” that we are (or aren’t) having WILL have a big impact.

    Plus, for all of this talk about Boomers retiring in droves, some theorize that Boomers may not actually retire “on schedule.” I just reviewed Tamara Erickson’s new book, Retire Retirement on my blog:

    Erickson suggests that Boomers may have another 30-year career in them! (Although it may be a different career from the one they currently inhabit.)

    As you note, the key point is to be prepared, keep on top of your game and don't let negative talk get you down. Opportunities happen for people who make them happen. Thanks, Penelope, for seeing the “glass half full!”

    Miriam Salpeter

    * * * * * * *

    I think the divide doesn’t break down by age, really, so much as mentality. This is a new workplace, and security comes from inside ourselves, not from a “good” economy or a “stable” job. For people who understand the new rules, the recession won’t hit hard. For people who are stuck in the old workplace, the recession will probably be bad.


  11. Old Guy
    Old Guy says:

    When times get tough and the big layoffs start getting rolled out, it’s good to be young, and very, very bad to be middle aged, overpaid, stuck in place within the organization, and with a fat mortgage and kids in college.

    Who do companies lay off? The people who get paid a lot but who aren’t moving up in the organization. They cost a lot and aren’t ever going to do much more for the company than they are doing now. If you are a middle manager whose career has stalled, you are in deep, deep trouble.

    Who do they keep? People that take home tiny paychecks and have potential to grow into someone significant in the company, which is to say the young folks at the bottom of the pyramid.

    The young folks get the responsibilities and the career opportunities – but not the paychecks – of the older folks sent packing. When the recession ends and the company starts hiring and expanding again, they find that the underbrush in front of them has been remarkably thinned out, and that there are more options for rapid advancement than they ever could have anticipated.

    Just don’t forget that nothing is forever, and be prepared for the axe to swing the other way when you hit 45.

  12. Matt Bingham
    Matt Bingham says:

    This just comes down to the monumental fact that if you keep your skillset strong and your learning curve up you won’t have to worry no matter what the market brings. We dictate our own “job recessions” more-so than the markets do.

    * * * * * * *

    I love this comment, Matt. Thanks. Your remind us that this is all about personal responsibility. A recession does not control your career. You do.


  13. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I’ve misplaced my crystal ball (again) and that’s a good thing. I’d rather learn from the past and work towards determining my own future – whatever that may be. Thanks Penelope for the refreshing (at least half full) glass of water.

  14. Robert W.
    Robert W. says:

    Matt Bingham’s comment is the most astute (and concise) of every one here. In a given community, a recession/depression is only so for those who are unemployed or severely underemployed and not by personal choice.

    I graduated from university and entered the workforce fulltime in 1987. In that time I’ve literally met – worked with and/or interviewed – several thousand people: in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. In that mix there are have high-ballers (driven folks) and low-ballers (do the minimum). In any economy, I very much doubt that anyone in the first group would ever be unemployed.

    Finally, another thing we can not ignore is that the presidential campaign in your country this year is causing a huge political slant on the economic situation. It will be used against the incumbent party and for their opposition. While this makes for good nattering on 24/7 Cable TV shows, one has to wonder how much truth there is to it!

  15. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    @ “Old Guy”

    Thanks “Old Guy” for telling it the way it is in especially the larger companies. You remind me of an old geezer I once knew.

  16. 40  - €“ - €“ Now What?
    40 - €“ - €“ Now What? says:

    Interesting post about timing and the job market. I also came out of school in the late 80s and as a Gen Xer suffered from the recession translating into a terrible job market. And now I’m considering leaving the consulting life and jumping back in to the job market, so timing it is a big thing for me. I even blogged about it today at http://40-nowwhat.blogspot.com/.

    I’ve always felt demographics have been unkind to my generation. I envy the possibilities for Gen Y based simply on the timing of their birth. I don’t expect the recession will have a big impact on their job prospects.

  17. John
    John says:

    Pray tell, what is this “personal branding”?

    * * * * * *

    You should check out Dan Schawbel’s site. He writes about personal branding (link above in the comments). Also, Seth Godin is a good writer about personal brand. And, of course, there’s the classic article in FastCompany magazine called “The Brand of You” that introduces the concept.


  18. Sidney
    Sidney says:

    There are some good, bad and ugly points in this post. The best part is staying positive and realizing you have more control over your employment lot than most people realize.

    The bad has to do with the minimizing of the looming recession and its impact on the employment market. The jobless rate is up to 4.9% and would be higher without thousands of people having stopped looking for work. Plus, the percentage rate of unemployed that have been that way longer than six months is 17%. And if the financial markets collapse more than just hedge fund managers will be hurting. Anyone with investments in the markets or holders of pensions and other retirement vehicles will be hurting too. I also haven’t brought up our horrific debt situation both institutional and individual combined with the costs of the mismanaged war. The US is in a world of hurt for the forseeable future.

    That brings us to the ugly which is the constant naked pandering to Gen Y evidenced by your minimizing of a recession that, worse case scenario, could turn into a depression. I’m not convinced things are all hunky-dory with Gen Y even if the economic winds blow softer than predicted. What if because of recession and meager savings the Boomers do not retire en masse as predicted? What if the more resilient and resourceful Gen X overachieves in spite of their small numbers? What if the first to be let go is the inexperienced instead of the proven? What if some of the predictions come true and Gen Y is the first modern generation that has a worse living standard than their parents? Think of the societal upheavel that could happen if that event comes to pass.


  19. Jim
    Jim says:

    The problem with this premise is that a recession does not exist in a vaccuum. The financial and mortgage industry is getting hit hard. That means that software companies that supply them will be hit. Computer companies that supply them will be hit, Then they wont be buying more furniture,or paying for commercial office space to run their business. It ripples through the economy.

    Now Bear Stearns is going to be bought by JPMorgan. 14,000 more jobs are at risk. Most of these jobs are done by similar positions within JPM. That means more IT people competing for the same jobs, more admin assistants, more middle-managers, more project managers, more marketing people, etc.

    We need to connect the dots here. This will hit the airlines because not as many people are going to be flying for business, renting cars, staying in hotels, etc. Not as many laptops, cell phones, beepers, and blackberries will be needed.

    Now what do you do about it?

    The key is to think outside the box. When everybody is giving up, that is exactly the time to put your search into overdrive. This is where you can get a jump on your career. reinvent yourself if you have to, reposition yourself. But don’t give up. You need to think outside of the box as well as be able to connect the dots.

  20. Steve
    Steve says:

    “Even in areas where the economic downturns are hitting the hardest – €“ like finance, real estate and manufacturing – younger employees are in high demand.”

    You have got to be kidding, I hope.

    Do you know how much harder it is to get a job in manufacturing now versus 10 or 20 years ago for young adults?

  21. Allison
    Allison says:

    For those of us interested in non profits, fundraising/donations have been a increasing over the past few years despite the economy. I think that it’s not enough to just pay attention to the overall economy; examine what these changes mean for the sector that you are interested in.

  22. Ken Forester
    Ken Forester says:

    Jobs and unemployment are totally based on the state of the economy. See job security entry in Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Job_security) and you will see why economy is the number driver of jobs and unemployment. Or better still, go and check your Job Security Score at http://www.jobsecurityscore.com and do some research on this economic analysis site (www.scorelogix.com) and you will agree with me. I have been unemployed during last recession and everytime economy slows down or goes into recession I find the number of unemployed people I know spike.

    The national Job Security Index has been going down for a few months now, so it’s time for some of us to get worried.


  23. karen m
    karen m says:

    So often I see this alleged oh the boomers Are retiring, and oh there is a problem with regards to a recession, but yet with very little data and information.

    1 – There are 1 MILLION Less jobs that were added to the economy in 2007 – than there was in 2006 – that is More than Half the number of jobs – Every year we have More People ENTERING the Workforce, than we have Jobs for them..

    2- Generation Y makes up a LARGER demographic population than Boomers – by the Mass Millions, and the last boomer is Not expected to Retire until 2037 – wow, by then Gen y’s kids will have entered into the market

    3- 85 Percent of boomers are not retiring which is Affecting the workforce

    4 – we have more jobs being given to foreign entities and H1 rather than given to qualified talent.. thus we are unreasonably displacing our own workers

    5 – AS LONG as salaries continue to fall, 4 times in the last 5 years, we can determine that there Is NOT and is Going to be a War for talent

    THE RECESSION which started last year HAS ALREADY affected employment..

    People Please LOOK at the Payroll numbers.. Jobs Per thousand ! those are the ONLY Accurate information that one should use to determine the job market crisis

    Karen Mattonen

  24. sailormouth
    sailormouth says:


    One quibble is that almost all Gen Y’ers, at least those out of school now, have only had experience in bad economies. Most of us graduated in 2001 or later (or not at all yet), hardly boom times. Job-hopping has become something of a necessity for us rather than anything strategic, but I agree with your premise that in the long-run we’re better off for it. Once the masters of the universe figure out that our parents and grandparents are overpaid and overhoused, things will actually start looking better for us. We’ve been able to thrive in what is arguably the worst economic situation since at least the 1970’s, some people are saying the 1930’s, once there is an actual labor shortage the demand seen now will seem like lean times.

  25. Saunders
    Saunders says:

    Please be careful of what you tell people. You’re selling a fantasy. Things are going to get really, really tough for a lot of good, honest hard working people.

    Nature has a way of cleaning itself. If you actually stop, close your eyes and think about all this crap we’ve created, you will understand why we need a deep cleaning and you wont be shocked when it comes.

  26. Must Pay Taxes
    Must Pay Taxes says:

    We are already in a recession.

    And it will get worse.

    If a Democrat gets elected the multinationals will get taxed and money printed which will ease things for awhile and then they will crash as they must since we did nothing to fix the economy.

    If McCain gets elected then we fight wars of empire and do not change what we are doing so instead of a steep up followed by a crash we get an even slide further dowards.

    As much as I’d like to see the social reform of Ron Paul, his pure Austrian economic model would have tanked what remains of our economy good.

    There is a solution. Fix what we are doing and then use nationalization as a driver for productivity: in order. We did exactly that when confronted with a Cold War. Check out some of the articles at The Paleo Conservatist. I read them.

  27. Rob
    Rob says:

    Hard to take this article seriously when your wife gets made redundant at 20 weeks pregnant. Great, sure, there are plenty of jobs. Just not for pregnant women – because despite all protests to the contrary, pregnant women do not get offered jobs. Getting laid off now means she faces months of unemployment with no real prospect of work.

    We now must wait until baby has been born before she can get back into the workforce. Particularly tricky as I must postpone my university studies (I’m a Ph.D candidate) to get into the workforce to cover the sudden loss of her income (she was primary breadwinner).

    I know this is a bit off topic, but my advice to any preganant women out there is this: don’t tell anyone at work. Deny it for as long as possible if people start asking if you’re pregnant. You have nothing to gain and everything to lose by disclosing this information.

  28. Kingsley Tagbo - IT Career Coach
    Kingsley Tagbo - IT Career Coach says:

    One of my blog readers … just emailed me saying that they lost their job … I will say that people are losing their jobs alright!

    I also posted an article titled “How To Keep Your Job In A Recession” … it is a simple solution and may be of interest to your readers as well :-)

  29. zumpie
    zumpie says:

    Just stumbled across this—and while I foresaw the recession coming back when this was written, obviously many people (including the rather naive author) did not. If I weren’t currently unemployed (and yes, I have plenty of experience and marketable skills), I’d laugh at how stupid this article is.

  30. Tim
    Tim says:

    Just the headline of this article alone will likely catch some off guard. Now that 2009 is here, there might be more room for alternative solutions.

    Since we’re also talking about being more creative during this economic slump, why not think outside the box of looking to work for another in the first place?

    I’m rather amazed that there are plenty of skill sets that are for whatever reason not “conventional” enough to be taught in schools, but the mastery of which would lead to more autonomy.

    Most of us are trained to be employees- nothing wrong with that, but I’m convinced that thinking that way is a kind of tunnel vision that keeps many from learning skills that wold allow them to carve out there own path to income.

    One of them is as close as the computer in front of you. For the first time in history, we are 3 feet in front of the world, yet few learn how to use it in a way to render 1) value to others and 2)income for themselves.


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