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The New York Times has two different takes on the current labor market:

•  The New York Times has a story about how "one of the biggest surprises in today’s job market" is that "hundreds of thousands of men in their late 30s and early 40s stopped working during the pandemic and have lingered on the labor market’s sidelines since."  Many men in this age group "seem to be staying out of the work force altogether. They are an anomaly, as employment rates have rebounded more fully for women of the same age and for both younger and older men."

According to the story, "About 87 percent of men ages 35 to 44 were working as of October, down from 88.3 percent before the pandemic struck in 2020. The stubborn decline has spanned racial groups, but it has been most heavily concentrated among men who … do not have a four-year college degree.

"The pullback comes despite the fact that wages are rising and job openings are plentiful, including in fields like truck driving and construction, where college degrees are not required and men tend to dominate.

"Economists have not determined any single factor that is keeping men from returning to work. Instead, they attribute the trend to a cocktail of changing social norms around parenthood and marriage, shifting opportunities, and lingering scars of the 2008 to 2009 downturn - which cost many people in that age group jobs just as they were starting their careers."

•  The Times also reports that Handshake (which describes itself as "a networking platform serving more than 10 million college students) recently surveyed "about 1,400 recent college graduates and current seniors to ask about their top job search priority: 73 percent said stability. Fewer than half, by comparison, said a priority was to work for a known brand."

The Times goes on:

"If stability is what young workers are after, the unquestionably strong job market is in a prime position to comply. The unemployment rate is at nearly a five-decade low. There are more openings across industries than there were before the pandemic, and layoffs across the economy are low by historical standards. Employers added 263,000 jobs last month, the government said on Friday, in the latest show of economic strength.

"But some young people are anxious nonetheless. For the nearly two-thirds of young American adults who didn’t graduate from college, job insecurities are sharpened by inflation, at a 40-year high. Others, who did go to college, are entering their careers after years of school disruptions and rising levels of mental distress. And for the very small subset who graduated from college and planned to seek out especially high-paying, perk-filled jobs, like those in technology, there’s the angst of witnessing layoffs across the companies associated with the most alluring roles."

KC's View:

The world of our parents, where people would work for the same company for decades, feeling invested in those companies and, in some measure, that those companies were invested in them (though, to be clear, they had lower expectations and were less self-actualized) is long gone.  And with it, the stability of those times is gone as well - no doubt that those early-middle-aged men are feeling it as much as those young people seem to want it.

I'm not sure many people want to go back to those so-called good old days.  (I certainly don't - I worked for more than a half-dozen companies before I started MNB more than 21 years ago.)  But I do think there is an opportunity for companies to create cultures of caring that can achieve some level of the stability that people of all ages can crave.

It just has to be a priority.