Why are US employers laying off staff amid a talent shortage?

This WORKTECH Academy briefing adopts an all-American theme to report on volatility in the tech job market, the return of Neocon trade show and the upcoming WORKTECH Chicago event

What’s going on in the American job market? If you’re confused by recent trends, you’re not alone. First there was the ‘Great Resignation’, an agonised debate about a national labour shortage and a hiring frenzy in some firms to fill vacancies. Now, just months later, companies appear to be laying off workers.

The contradictions at play here are baffling and a report in Fortune magazine sums it all up by asking the question: ‘So which is it? Are U.S. employers begging workers to fill empty seats or are they booting employees out the door in preparation for a looming recession?’

May was apparently a particularly brutal month in the technology sector with 15,000 tech workers losing their jobs, according to TechCrunch. But Fortune brings some much-needed perspective to the U.S. job market by suggesting that the lost tech jobs are just a drop in the ocean compared to America’s employed population of 158 million and the 2.8 million workers who routinely lose their jobs or complete temporary contracts each month.

According to Fortune, ‘Even if every unemployed person in the country got a job today, employers would still have 5.4 million unfilled roles.’

The reason why the tech lay-offs attract such global attention, despite their smallish scale, is because they might be ‘a harbinger of increased volatility’ more generally. When the big tech employers start pulling in their horns after a two-year run in which the stocks of firms like Apple, Meta, Microsoft and Amazon dominated, it’s a sign that economic storm clouds are gathering.

Neocon a shot in the arm

There are reasons for the U.S. workplace sector to feel more confident, however, not least because of the return of the Neocon trade show in Chicago which provided a welcome shot on the arm after the closures and cancellations of  the pandemic.

The big office suppliers announced they were back in business and our man at the Mart, furniture industry veteran John Sacks of JSA, reports a number of interesting trends. These include more residential-style ranges with soft sofas, perhaps a nod to two years of home working; a rise in sit-stand workstations as a reflection of a growing focus on health and wellbeing; and the appearance of outdoor commercial furniture which extols the benefits of fresh air. Interesting stuff. You can read John Sacks’ Neocon review here.

Chicago explores psychology

For some organisations, their reasoning for employees to return to the office is rooted in logic—certain job functions must take place in person, spontaneous collaboration and ingenuity can occur, and social interactions build positive culture. But many companies are unaware that the human brain makes 95 per cent  of its decisions based on the subconscious.

As part of the upcoming WORKTECH22 Chicago conference, Dr Dustin Jackson from Cognizant and Samantha Delabar from BHDP Architecture will use research and findings from psychology and neuroscience to analyse the office’s impact on feelings of connectedness within the workplace.

WORKTECH22 Chicago will take place on Tuesday 19 July at the AON Centre in Chicago. Join over 100 senior professionals from real estate, facilities, HR, technology, executive management, architecture, design and professional advisors to listen to global thought leaders, further your knowledge and share best practise and expertise. Book your early bird ticket here.

In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional conference series continues through our in-person, virtual and hybrid platforms. This edition is posted 22 June 2022.
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