White-collar workers hit hard by unemployment

White-collar jobs have become increasingly elusive, leaving more people unemployed in sectors once considered secure, according to recent reporting from The Wall Street Journal

A May 15 article from the Journal referenced white-collar layoffs — notably in the tech industry — caused by overhiring and rising interest rates. Many of those jobs are unlikely to come back as workplaces anticipate increased use of artificial intelligence to automate tasks, according to the publication. After Meta's recent round of layoffs, CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees many jobs would not be coming back because the company can operate more efficiently using new technologies; David Risher, CEO of Lyft, cut the company's management layers from eight to five this month so it can "innovate faster." 

This trend is also sweeping through hospitals and health systems. More are downsizing their C-suites and combining regional operations, hoping to weather industry storms from a leaner ship. 

"We may be at the peak of the need for knowledge workers," Atif Rafiq, a former chief digital officer at McDonald’s and Volvo, told the Journal. "We just need fewer people to do the same thing."

About 150,000 white-collar workers were unemployed for the year ended in March, according to nonpartisan research group Employ America, and it is becoming harder for them to find new jobs. A May 19 article from the Journal said job postings in real estate, finance, insurance and advertising have fallen by nearly 500,000 since the end of 2022; the labor department anticipates that of the 20 occupations that will create the most jobs through 2031, two-thirds will be blue-collar. 

Blue-collar jobs are also faring better on paychecks. While wages have risen over the past year  in fields with more blue-collar workers, like tourism, construction and facilities, they have dropped in the same time frame for white-collar fields, like finance, insurance and accounting. 

White-collar companies are taking more time to find the right person after hiring some that were poor fits during the pandemic. Many relaxed their hiring criteria to hire enough workers, but are firming back up as they regain leverage in the job market, according to the Journal. Employers are taking 11 weeks to hire for white-collar jobs as opposed to seven weeks in 2021, and four rounds of interviews are common. 

"Companies realize they over-hired in the middle," Nick Bunker, an economist at jobs site Indeed, told the Journal. "They're paring things back."

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