GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — We often hear about the unemployment rate, or the number of jobs a new business will create, but it can be difficult to know what that means for your own life. Neal Gilbert with Robert Half Finance and Accounting in Grand Rapids helps us break those numbers down, and see the impact they have on your day to day life. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases monthly reports describing the state of employment in the United States. These provide details on estimated participation rates in the job market. Each report tells us things like the most recent unemployment rate, or the net number of new jobs created in the last month. The most recent numbers for the entire country show that the unemployment rate was 3.5%, which is a 50 year low. The most recent report was released on January 10, 2020. The next report will be released on February 7. These reports not only report on full and part time jobs, they even provide details on the number of part-time workers who are looking for full-time work. 

One way you can look at the numbers is by comparing the unemployment rate with the quits rate date from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. That quits rate is the rate that workers in the U.S. are voluntarily quitting their jobs. Right now, that rate is sitting at 2.3% which is a nearly 10 year high. A low unemployment rate coupled with a high quits rate is a good sign for those looking for jobs. That combination means there are a lot of opportunities and people can afford to be a bit more selective in where they apply for and accept a position. 

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So what can the average person do with the information provided by these reports? By knowing what is going on you can determine your next steps. If you are looking for a new position, it is helpful to know which industries are growing the fastest. You can use that to determine where you should direct your efforts. If you are already employed, the strength of the job market can provide some insight into your job security going forward. You can also use this knowledge to your benefit when it comes to getting more from your employer. When the unemployment rate is low, employers are looking to keep their current employees, or find someone quickly to fill a position. That desire can help get you better perks, like more vacation, and a higher salary because there are fewer candidates applying for the same positions as you. 

If you want a more in depth understanding of the jobs numbers and what they could mean for you, a recruiter can help you figure out where you stand. 

Minimum wage is often discussed when the jobs reports are released. Gilbert says wages have been slower to recover in the U.S. since the Great Recession. There isn't a concrete answer on how it may affect the job market going forward because there are so many factors, and unfortunately, economics is incredibly hard to predict.  

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When it comes to Michigan, the minimum wage increase in January 2020, and a falling unemployment rate make for a good market for local job seekers. 


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