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Despite mass layoffs, there are still lots of jobs out there. Here's where

The most recent jobs report shows the U.S. economy added 236,000 jobs in March.
Olivier Douliery
AFP via Getty Images
The most recent jobs report shows the U.S. economy added 236,000 jobs in March.

Mass layoffs have dominated the headlines as huge companies shed hundreds of thousands of workers.

But the economy is still adding jobs — 236,000 last month alone. And many industries are struggling to snap workers up.

NPR's Juana Summers spoke with Dana Peterson, chief economist at The Conference Board — a nonprofit think tank — to find out what jobs are still hot.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Interview highlights

On where the jobs are (and aren't) in the economy

Understand that there are three buckets [to the labor market]. You have that first bucket, and those are the pandemic darlings like technology, transportation, warehousing, construction because interest rates were super low and everybody ran out and bought a house. Also real estate tied to that, and retail. Those sectors that did very well during the pandemic now are not doing so well because there's been a shift in demand from goods to services — so those are the sectors that are letting people go.

Then you have your sectors in the middle that are holding on to their labor forces, and we call that hoarding. The reason why is because many CEOs think that if there is a recession, it's going to be short and it's not going to be that bad. And so why would you let everybody go and then have to turn around, you know, nine months later and hire everybody back? So they're just holding on to their workers.

Then there's a third bucket of industries that are actively hiring, and those are the industries that are keeping the employment data that we're seeing so buoyant. And that is mainly those industries that you have to show up for work. You physically have to go to the job.

On examples of industries searching for workers

Those industries include health care and also accommodation and food services, hotels and restaurants, airlines – many of those industries, you have to go to work and there's just not enough people. So those businesses are still trying to hire people and recover all the jobs that were lost during the pandemic.

Also, there are pretty big labor shortages and federal, state and local governments. Why? Because lots of people are retiring and the government can't necessarily raise wages as rapidly to meet the demand for wages. So they have these massive labor shortages.

On health care, an industry that has seen layoffs but also nursing shortages

When we look at the employment data that comes out the first Friday of every month, health care has been hiring people pretty strongly. So you may hear about layoffs here and there, but on net, there's still more hiring than people getting let go.

And absolutely you are having shortages of nurses because that is a job where you have to show up for work. It's very difficult. You don't have as many people wanting to go into that sector, right? So the nurses who do want to go into that sector, they're demanding very high wages. And we're seeing those elevated wages being passed on to consumers and causing inflation. And the thing is that the sector that is going to have the most labor shortages over the next decade is health care.

There is a supply and demand issue in nursing at the moment.
Apu Gomes / AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images
There is a supply and demand issue in nursing at the moment.

On advice for current job seekers

There are certain industries that are still hiring. So if you don't mind switching industries or getting yourself trained to go into a different industry, do it. Maybe the tech sector isn't where you want to go right now, but certainly you could still do technology within the hospital sector. They have computers and they have technology in all sorts of things. So they might be willing to hire you even though your big tech firm may not be willing to do that. It's possible to switch industries if you can still stay within your occupation, so I would suggest that people look at the industries that are still hiring, that still need workers and go there.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elena Burnett
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.
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