Our latest cover story is up online, and we find some compelling evidence that we are in the beginning phases of a new job boom. It's not that new job creation is so great, but that unemploymjent remains low, productivity gains are declining, and the quit rate is going up. All of that adds up to more power for employees.
I've got to say that, anecdotally, finding the people we used as examples to illustrate the economic data was far easier than I had thought it would be. In fact, we found so many recent job-hoppers that we couldn't use them all in the story. Excerpt:
Ever since employment peaked at the height of the dotcom bubble at the end of 2000, bosses have held an unusually lopsided share of the power. They've subjected employees to downsizing, productivity squeezing, outsourcing, and myriad lesser indignities.
Yet for most workers lucky enough to escape the mass layoffs, there was little choice but to hunker down and take whatever the boss dished out; the job market was so weak that if you had work, you were inclined to hang on to it for dear life, no matter how many times your supervisor ordered you to crash out that analysis of the China market on the night of your kid's piano recital.
But now the tables have turned. An unusual convergence of economic factors has made this moment the best time to look for a job since the most dizzying days of the boom. A recent survey of more than 14,000 employees and human resources managers by compensation consultancy Salary.com found that fully 65 percent of workers planned to be hunting for a new job in early 2006.
The forces behind this transformation aren't altogether obvious - indeed, at a time of slowing GDP growth, massive deficits, war, and other dark clouds, it can be difficult to swallow the idea that we're in a golden age for job-hopping. Underlying job creation remains lackluster, the worst ever at this point in a recovery in the last half-century. But the newly inviting job market has surprisingly little to do with job growth; it is instead the result of a collision between low unemployment and collapsing productivity.
Strip away the economic wonkery, and the upshot is clear: Bosses can't squeeze more work out of existing workers, and there aren't many new workers, particularly skilled ones, out there. Something's got to give, and increasingly that's the worker giving notice. The Bureau of Labor Statistics's so-called quit rate, a measure of, as the name implies, people who have quit, has swelled by a third since 2003. There are now about 2.6 million people leaving their jobs each month, the same level as in the pre-9/11 economy. Job openings, meanwhile, have increased by almost half a million positions since last summer.