The number of jobs in 2018 is likely to increase due to the tax stimulus, but the overall growth could be hampered by the interest rate hikes proposed by the Federal Reserve.
The tax bill will boost economic growth in the U.S. and the fiscal stimulus should help hiring continue, said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst and Washington bureau chief of Bankrate, a New York-based financial content and data company.
The unemployment rate could also see a dip next year and decline from the current rate of 4.1% down into the 3% or higher range. Job candidates should not expect to see a surge in the number of positions being available since the expansion began in July 2009 and is now in "'middle age' as recoveries go," he said.
"The total number of jobs added in 2017 will be below 2016 and some modest further slowing will likely be seen in 2018," Hamrick said. "Even with the tax bill, an acceleration in hiring will be hard to generate at this point in the economic cycle."
The tax bill does not change or improve the qualifications of individuals who are already employed or have been seeking jobs.
"It doesn't help to bridge the much-talked about skills gap," he said.
Based on November's employment report, there was still nearly 5 million Americans working part-time who were seeking full-time work. The number of part-time employees who shift toward full-time roles should increase, Hamrick said.
"As further slack comes out of the job market, that number, which is down more than 850,000 over the past year, should decline further," he said.
Job seekers should look for positions in health care, leisure and hospitality, business and professional services, which have more unfilled positions than other sectors, Hamrick said.
The employment market has shifted over to candidates who now have more of the advantage currently, said Josh Wright, chief economist at iCIMS, a Matawan, New Jersey-based recruitment software provider
"In 2017, the tide seems to have shifted decisively in favor of the job seeker," he said.
Data from iCIMS data demonstrate that the number of applicants per position is declining, giving job seekers a better chance to chance to obtain the job they wanted.
Candidates should take advantage of these current conditions to find or negotiate positions which will "set them up for success further down the road," Wright said. "That includes asking about not just opportunities for promotion, but also ongoing training, as the job market continues to evolve at a rapid pace."
Job growth should remain healthy across many sectors even as interest rates rise.
"The tax stimulus should give a short-term boost to overall economic growth and to job growth," he said. "At the same time, rate hikes by the Federal Reserve will blunt the stimulus of the tax cuts to some extent and may contribute to a moderation in job growth that would be typical for this stage of the business cycle."
While the types of occupations and roles will continue to change, the ones that are most sought after and will stand out include having skills in data and technology, as "disruptive innovations continue to sweep across industries," Wright said.
"The gig economy should continue to grow and both employers and job seekers will need to keep up with the latest practices, opportunities and challenges," he said.
The two industries which will continue to see more change are healthcare and retail. The healthcare industry has strong, long-term fundamentals as the lifespan of Americans is increasing, but some volatility will occur as the industry undergoes mergers and acquisitions, Wright said.
"In retail, the question remains how far and how fast the transition to e-commerce will occur," he said. "The pace of change is now so rapid, and its scope so broad that employers need to think hard about their hiring needs not just today, but down the road. It has become and will remain a more demanding environment for employers."
While 228,000 new positions were added in November, including "really high quality" ones, wages have remained stagnant, said J.J. Kinahan, chief market strategist for TD Ameritrade, an Omaha-based online broker.
"Hourly earnings rose 0.2% to $22.24, barely a blip and slightly below the 0.3% rise analysts had predicted," he said.
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