As the economy has been steadily recovering from the recession that hit a decade ago, the unemployment rate has been decreasing, and more jobs have been opening up. For years, this trend has primarily benefited top-tier candidates—the highly qualified and educated strata of the unemployed population. Joblessness for marginalized groups, however, has remained a problem.
Until now. The tides are beginning to turn, and subsets of the population that have historically faced challenges and discrimination in entering the job market are finally having their day. New employment data demonstrates a steep drop in unemployment rates for people without a high school diploma as well as for those with disabilities, criminal records and extended periods of unemployment.
Marginalized Groups Finding Work
Unemployment rates have become so low, that in many states, employers are now willing to hire candidates they wouldn’t have considered a few years ago. Employers who previously required work experience or a diploma for certain positions now require neither. An increasing number of employers no longer require a background check as part of the hiring process. Many are willing to hire people with a criminal record. In some cases, employers have even hired current inmates at the market pay rate.
The results are encouraging. Employment of so-called “prime-age workers” (i.e., workers between the ages of 25 and 54) is the highest it’s been in seven years. In November, unemployment for African-Americans reached an all-time low of 6.8 percent.
The statistics also indicate parallel improvements in income. During the economic re-growth in recent years, wages—especially for workers at the lower end of the income spectrum—did not grow accordingly. However, the last two years have been witness to rapid gains in household incomes—particularly for low-income families. For instance, Walmart recently followed Target’s example by announcing an increase in pay for entry-level workers.
Workers in a Position of Power
In staffing firms, securing temporary workers has become an increasingly competitive business. Recruiters have reported the necessity to act fast—to reach out to candidates within a day of applying for a job—or risk losing them to another job offer.
This economic situation is also putting employees in a strong position to negotiate higher pay. Payroll data analysis indicates a significant bump in people changing jobs in exchange for a considerable pay increase.