Despite Layoffs, There Are Still Lots Of Jobs Out There. So Where Are They? : Consider This from NPR Even amid mass layoffs in tech and other sectors, the economy is still adding jobs. Even tech jobs.

NPR's Andrea Hsu reports on a program that recruits and trains workers to enter the tech pipeline.

And NPR's Juana Summers speaks with Dana Peterson, chief economist with the Conference Board, about some of the broader trends in the labor market and what they could mean for job seekers.

In participating regions, you'll also hear a local news segment to help you make sense of what's going on in your community.

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Despite Layoffs, There Are Still Lots Of Jobs Out There. So Where Are They?

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This is the year of efficiency. That was Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg's message last month in a lengthy public Facebook post announcing the company would be laying off 10,000 people. Just months earlier, last November, Meta announced it would lay off another 11,000 employees. In total, the layoffs could represent nearly a quarter of Meta's workforce. In the most recent announcement, Zuckerberg used phrases like, flatter is faster, and, leaner is better, and painted a vision of a more nimble company via, quote, "garbage collecting unnecessary processes." Apart from all the jargon and buzzwords, something in Zuckerberg's post struck Wall Street Journal technology reporter Sam Schechner.

SAM SCHECHNER: He said that this is something that he sees continuing for many years. It's a new economic reality. And I think that's a real tone shift from the go-go times in - at least for the earnings of tech companies during the pandemic, when Meta was counting on a fundamental change in the way people operate. And that hasn't really panned out.

SUMMERS: The tech industry had been on a growth spurt for years. That was even before the pandemic. But the pandemic brought with it new opportunities for expansion. People were working from home, learning from home, socializing from home. Entertainment moved fully online with venues and theaters closed, and suddenly everyone needed the platforms and software that huge tech companies provide. As Edward Jones analyst Brian Yarbrough puts it, Big Tech CEOs saw a chance to capitalize on increased demand and expand.

BRIAN YARBROUGH: A lot of these companies hired for growth that was occurring during the pandemic, and they expected those growth rates to continue.

SUMMERS: Amazon, for instance, grew rapidly as demand for online services soared. The company doubled its overall headcount from the year 2019 to 2021. But then in 2022...


ANDY JASSY: It looked like we were coming out of the pandemic. And then omicron happened, and the war in Ukraine happened. And the inflationary environment that we're in happened in, you know, now a very uncertain economy.

SUMMERS: That was Amazon CEO Andy Jassy speaking at a summit last November. The stormy economy mixed with a fading pandemic sugar high left companies like Amazon looking at their workforce and realizing they just had too many people. Enter the year of efficiency. At the start of this year, Jassy announced Amazon would be eliminating 18,000 positions, and last month he said that 9,000 more would be cut. Lots of other tech companies have made similar announcements in recent months.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: Salesforce laid off hundreds of employees this week.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: Coinbase is cutting about a fifth of its workforce.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #3: Microsoft announced Wednesday it would lay off 10,000 employees.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #4: Google's parent company, Alphabet, announcing today it will cut 12,000 positions.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #5: This week Disney will start laying off 7,000 employees.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #6: Thousands of Twitter employees learning this morning that they are losing their jobs.

SUMMERS: And it's not just tech. Giants in other sectors that have announced layoffs so far this year include McDonald's, Tyson and Walmart. And yet...


SEANA SMITH: The jobs market has really been so resilient now.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #7: The U.S. labor market still remains robust.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #8: It's still what you would consider to be in line with a strong jobs market.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #9: ...Continue to see outsized gains and job growth.

AMNA NAWAZ: Overall, job growth remained solid.

SUMMERS: CONSIDER THIS - even as mass layoffs reach levels we have not seen since the beginning of the pandemic, it is still a job-seeker's market - yes, even in tech. Coming up, we'll hear about where the jobs are in this economy, in tech and in the broader U.S. labor market.


SUMMERS: From NPR, I'm Juana Summers. It's Monday, April 24.

It's CONSIDER THIS FROM NPR. So far, tech companies have announced 102,000 job cuts this year, according to a report by the consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. You have to go back two decades for numbers that high. But as rapidly as huge companies are cutting tech jobs, the demand for tech workers is still very high across the country.

DANA PETERSON: There's always going to be demand for high tech.

SUMMERS: That's Dana Peterson, chief economist at The Conference Board, an economic think tank.

PETERSON: When we looked at our research on labor shortages and which industries are going to have labor shortages over the next decade, tech is right there at the top, and that's because everybody does use technology.

SUMMERS: She says between advances in new technologies like 5G, AI and 3D computing and our dependence on automation in the form of things like self-checkout registers, tech is not a field that will become obsolete anytime soon.

PETERSON: It's not a bad thing to go into the tech industry. And certainly over the next 10 years, there's going to be strong demand.

SUMMERS: In fact, there is strong demand now. This year there are more than 300,000 tech job openings, around three times the amount of announced layoffs. And many companies are having trouble filling job openings. NPR's Andrea Hsu reports on a program racing to get more workers into the tech pipeline.

ANDREA HSU, BYLINE: In the break room of the tech training school Per Scholas, Michael Gomez has something to celebrate.

MICHAEL GOMEZ: No one rung it?


HSU: He is the latest in his cohort to get his A+ certification. That's a widely recognized credential issued by the trade association CompTIA for IT support and other entry-level tech jobs. Gomez is 44. He's worked in retail as a personal shopper and stylist, but now he's looking to advance in the world, and he says tech is where it is. Plus, he's looking forward to the stability.

GOMEZ: With my A+ certification, I can now land a job and not have to necessarily worry about next gig, next client. It's like my next shift is tomorrow, and I know I'll be getting paid.

HSU: Gomez remains undeterred by the layoff announcements from places like Amazon, Google and Meta.

GOMEZ: A lot of those layoffs are coming from the big companies, sort of, like, bigger fish. So me getting my A+ today - I'm a small fish. So...


GOMEZ: I don't feel like I have those problems to necessarily worry about because there's a lot of startup companies. There's a lot of people doing things every day.

HSU: And that is reflected in the numbers.

PLINIO AYALA: Over 315,000 tech jobs are open right now in this country.

HSU: Plinio Ayala is CEO of Per Scholas, a Latin phrase that means for scholars. The nonprofit has 20 campuses around the country, including just outside Washington, D.C.

AYALA: There are more openings now than the talent we're producing as a nation.

HSU: This school is trying to help fill the void, recruiting students from communities that are underrepresented in tech and students without a college education. Ayala points out, with so much of our world online, companies across sectors need tech workers.

AYALA: The truth is that every company is a tech company.

HSU: In fact, it's estimated that just over half of tech workers are now working outside the traditional tech sector. Students here have taken on jobs in cybersecurity, Java development and IT support - your basic help desk job.

KEIONNA YARBOROUGH: Now let's go see who is the printer technician.

HSU: I peek in on a class taught by Keionna Yarborough, a Per Scholas graduate herself. The lesson is all about troubleshooting laser printers.

YARBOROUGH: All right. So you see here this printer can copy, scan, fax, talk on the phone - just kidding...



HSU: Students pay nothing for the 15-week, boot camp-style courses here. Funding comes from grants and from corporations who work with Per Scholas to develop customized trainings. And while workforce training programs can be a mixed bag, this one appears highly effective at placing students. More than 80% of graduates find full-time work within a year, Ayala says, at a whole range of companies.

AYALA: Deloitte & Touche, JPMorgan Chase, Capital One, TEKsystems.

HSU: Johntel Brandy, who's 38, is actually hoping to stay with her current employer, American Airlines. She's been a gate agent for seven years. As soon as she graduates, she plans to apply for an IT support job there, which would come with better pay.

JOHNTEL BRANDY: Way better pay.


BRANDY: It's way better pay. It's basically three times more than what I'm making right now.

HSU: Plinio Ayala says that's typical of post-college graduates.

Elizabeth Mabrey, who's 23, has been working at a CVS and before that at a Barnes & Noble.

ELIZABETH MABREY: When you think about most retail jobs, a lot of times they pay you based off of high school level education. That's generally where they stop.

HSU: Now, Mabrey's passion is art. She's been taking some art courses at a community college, but she knows that many creative jobs, like in graphic design, are threatened by AI.

MABREY: I want to make sure I have security, and IT's definitely a secure place to go into.

HSU: As the students here finish up their coursework and sharpen their resumes, the mass layoff announcements coming from Silicon Valley remain far from the mind.

GOMEZ: Even every day seeing layoff, layoff, layoff - I've been studying, studying, studying.


HSU: Michael Gomez and his friends are set to graduate on May 12.

SUMMERS: NPR's Andrea Hsu.


SUMMERS: Tech isn't the only sector looking to snap up workers. To get a bigger picture of the job market and what jobs are still hot, let's go back to Conference Board Chief Economist Dana Peterson. She told me that to understand what's going on, it's helpful to think of the job market as divided into three buckets. The first bucket includes the pandemic darlings - sectors like technology, transportation, warehousing, construction, real estate and retail. They're seeing layoffs because demand has cooled from the soaring highs of the pandemic. The second bucket contains companies in the middle that are holding on to their labor forces because many CEOs think that if there is a recession, it will be short and shallow. Peterson told me it's the third bucket that job seekers should keep their eye on.

PETERSON: 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 for. You physically have to go to the job.

SUMMERS: Can you give us some examples?

PETERSON: Sure, absolutely. So those industries include health care and also accommodation and food services - which is hotels and restaurants - airlines. Many of those industries you have to go to work, and there's just not enough people, and 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 in federal and state and local government. Why? - because lots of people are retiring and the government can't necessarily raise wages as rapidly to meet the demand for wages are, and so they have these massive labor shortages. So that's why we have these three buckets. And you do have a bunch of industries that are still hiring, but that's probably going to cool off as we get on with the year.

SUMMERS: I want to go back to health care for a second, which you just mentioned. We've seen a lot of layoffs in health care, and yet I feel like we persistently hear about things like nursing shortages. Can you just help us understand what's going on there?

PETERSON: Sure. Actually, when we look at the data - so the employment data that comes out the first Friday of every month, health care has been hiring people, like, 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, and you don't have as many people who want to go into that sector, right? And 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 this sector that is going to have the most labor shortages over the next decade is health care.

SUMMERS: So, Dana, last thing - any advice for people who are out there who are looking for a job right now?

PETERSON: Well, you know, 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, right? So, you know, maybe the tech sector isn't where you want to go right now, but certainly you could still do technology within the hospital sector, right? They have computers, and they have technology and 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. So 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.


SUMMERS: That was Dana Peterson, chief economist with The Conference Board. Earlier in this episode, you heard reporting from NPR's Laurel Wamsley.



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