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Pros and cons of low unemployment rates

America’s unemployment rate is currently the lowest it has been since 2000. A 3.9 percent unemployment rate sounds positive for our economy in that more people have jobs and are working. However, it is a bit more complicated than first meets the eye.

A low unemployment rate means there are fewer workers available to fill job openings. This creates an advantage for job seekers. It creates more opportunities for those who previously had difficulty in finding a job. This could include the less educated, inexperienced, disabled individuals, ex-offenders, etc.

Low unemployment forces employers to raise pay more in order to attract and retain workers. Wage growth is expected which will put more money in Americans’ pockets and result in increased spending, boosting the economy.

The other side of the coin is that businesses are struggling to find qualified workers for all types of jobs, from entry level to senior management positions. When businesses can’t find qualified employees it results in the lack of ability to satisfy customer demands. Manufacture and delivery of products and services suffers resulting in slowing economic growth. Then that translates into a decrease in hiring.

The job market is made up of fewer people looking for jobs. More baby boomers are retiring which is a trend expected to continue. This creates an environment where employed people will more actively look for better jobs than the ones they currently have.

The Labor Department reported that 3.56 million workers voluntarily left their positions in May. The quits rate, which measures quitters as a share of employed people increased to a 17-year high, of 2.4 percent. This indicates that more workers are feeling assured of finding better employment.

Many young people are staying in college longer which delays their entrance into the workforce. This further reduces the number of new workers available.

In interviews with many business owners they all cite their main problem in running their business is the lack of qualified employees. This is true across the board in all types of businesses, large or small. Employers are seeking people with a good work ethic and those who have the skills necessary for the job. Also the openness to training opportunities by individuals seeking jobs is very important as many new employees need training to be able to perform the necessary tasks for the position they are hired to fill.

It is reported that nearly one-third of small businesses cannot fill open jobs. During this time some previously idle workers return to, and stay in, the labor force. They acquire new skills and work on enhancing their ability to take on employment in the future.

Wages are also rising during this environment. Nationwide there were approximately 213,000 jobs added in the previous month, a strong month of gains. Mississippi’s unemployment rate for May was 4.7 percent. Alaska has the highest unemployment rate and Hawaii has the lowest.

What are the things applicants can do to better prepare themselves to find a job? Listed below re some skills desired by employers.

• Communication skills (Listening, speaking & writing)

• Flexibility and adaptability

• Problem solving and decision making skills

• Leadership skills

• Management skills

• Interpersonal abilities

• Analytical and research skills

• Organizational skills

• Ability to wear multiple hats

• Attention to detail

• Self-confidence

• Tactfulness

• Creativity

• Ethics and integrity

• Strong work ethic

• Sales and marketing

• Willingness to learn and accept constructive criticism

• PC/technical skills

• Ability to work as a team member

If you are seeking a new job or a better job, ensure that you prepare yourself with skills enhancement. Writing a resume and interviewing are also very important parts of the process. These things will truly differentiate you from other applicants.

HR experts have moved away from academic qualifications being foremost and shifted to a mind-set that it is much easier to train smart individuals how to perform in the job. Critical thinking, soft skills and competencies/expertise in specific areas pertinent to the job have risen to the top.

If you want to be chosen for a job, review the skills listed above, assess where you stand and find a way to polish the areas you need to improve. This will place you a step ahead of the pack and set you up for a successful career.

Becky Vaughn-Furlow retired from Trustmark Bank as executive vice president and human resources director. She can be contacted by emailing bvaughnfurlow@gmail.com.