The September jobs report made bold headlines last week with 336,000 new jobs added to the United States economy. While this is great news for many people, it’s a tale of two job markets. Frontline, blue-collar and service-sector jobs boomed, whereas white-collar professionals were left in the dust.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, service, hospitality, travel, restaurant and frontline workers experienced an uptick in employment. In September, leisure and hospitality added 96,000 jobs—above the average monthly gain of 61,000 over the last 12 months. Employment in food services and drinking establishments increased by 61,000 over the month, returning to its pre-pandemic level. Accommodation employment continued to trend up over the month, with 16,000 jobs.
Healthcare added 41,000 jobs, compared with the average monthly gain of 53,000 over the prior year. Government employment increased by 73,000, above the average monthly gain of 47,000 over the prior 12 months. Meanwhile, employment in professional, scientific and technical services increased by only 29,000 in September.
Challenges Faced By White-Collar Professionals
White-collar, college-educated professionals are having a harder time finding a new job and are facing greater job insecurity than blue-collar workers.
There’s a noticeable slowdown in hiring for white-collar job seekers, as businesses remain cautious of a looming recession. According to research from Indeed, listings for technology roles are down 55% from a year ago, banking vacancies fell more than 40%, and insurance listings dropped 18%.
Companies are looking for job seekers who possess highly specific and hard-to-find skills that match the requirements of the job descriptions. They are more discerning when hiring white-collar workers, as these professionals often incur higher costs. Job seekers are then boxed out of jobs as companies require hyperspecialization.
This cohort is forced to endure numerous rounds of interviews while not receiving feedback and is finding it harder to secure a new opportunity, the Wall Street Journal reported.
During economic downturns, white-collar professionals face layoffs or hiring freezes as businesses look to cut costs. These periods can be challenging for job seekers. Hiring has cooled sharply for white-collar roles in industries like tech, finance and real estate, which are sensitive to rising interest rates and market volatility. According to Layoffs.fyi, a site that tracks layoffs in the tech sector, over 1,000 tech companies laid off more than 240,000 professionals this year.
In a 2023 job market survey by Professional Résumé Writers, nearly half of the workers self-reported that they were concerned about losing their employment, with executives being the most worried (66%).
Recent labor market trends have posed some unique challenges for white-collar professionals. Displacement by technology, offshoring and shifting labor demand patterns have presented obsolescence challenges for some white-collar occupations.
Advances in technology can lead to the displacement of specific white-collar jobs as routine tasks become automated. This can create uncertainty for professionals in industries particularly susceptible to automation.
In March, Goldman Sachs released an alarming research report about the ascendency of artificial intelligence. The investment bank concluded in the analysis that 300 million jobs could be lost or diminished due to this fast-growing technology.
Companies are also accelerating their efforts to send jobs to lower-cost countries. A recent Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta survey found that 7.3% of leadership in the U.S. plans to move more jobs offshore as the next step from remote work within America.
White-collar workers are more likely to face skills gaps if they lack specialized software, data analytics and digital operations training.
Part-Time And Juggling Several Jobs
It’s not all rosy for frontline and blue-collar workers. The number of persons employed part-time for economic reasons, at 4.1 million, changed little in September. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part-time because their hours had been reduced or they could not find full-time jobs. According to the BLS data, 26.7 million Americans were working part-time jobs in September 2023.
The number of persons not in the labor market who currently want employment was 5.5 million, little changed from the prior month. These individuals were not counted as unemployed because they were not actively looking for work during the four weeks preceding the survey or were unavailable to take a job.