Welcome to a divided job market

Tomorrow’s federal budget is supposed to be long on austerity — and long on spending to improve training. We have a shortage of skilled trades in this country.

Advertising for jobs has fallen in most Canadian markets, and not just because it moved online. Mid-level and up positions seem to have disappeared, for the most part, while what’s showing up on city-wide sweeps using tools like Workopolis are mostly entry-level and low-level positions.

Yet, at the same time, recruiters — the kind that are paid to search for a candidate, not the kind that get paid if and only if their candidate is hired — are seeing business growing sharply. Their phones are ringing with orders.

What’s going on? Is the market doing well even though it’s out of sight?

Our Personal Due Diligence read on this situation is that enterprises are getting ready to house-clean.

The economic forecast isn’t particularly strong. The consumer is still weak. South of the border, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has moved another step further into implementation, and in most states insurance premiums are expected to rise 50 pre cent or more. Whether employer or employee-paid, that’s a massive hit to future spending.

With China slowed, India stalled, Brazil playing with recession, the global economic picture says “slow down on investing in growth”.

It is, however, a good time to invest in the management team — in particular, finding better people than you have now.

That’s why recruiters’ phones are ringing, even though the adverts are quiet. Individuals are willing to take the risk of a job move, so why not upgrade while you can? Of course, since the incumbent hasn’t been axed yet in most cases, the search has to be a quiet one.

Down at the bottom end of things — on the shop floor, in the hospital wards, and the like — life goes on. That’s why those ads can still be seen.

What’s not being said out loud — but needs to be a part of your own personal diligence plan — is that there’s a little reorganization going on as well.

Most enterprises (public or private sector) have unfunded pension liabilities. Early retirement packages, especially in the management ranks, are allowing the diversion of salary funds into top ups.

Trading in two mediocre managers for one top flight one — even if the quality acquisition will cost more — is a good deal right now. So, too, is using the reorganization to strip out a layer (having a new director have managers report directly rather than through senior managers, or a vice-president do without directors).

The organization improves the quality of its people while reducing the total managerial complement, and gets to redirect some monies toward its pension obligations.

Of course, in the future, that means that overall the number of rungs available on the various career ladders is shrinking, not growing, at least in the mid- and large-sized enterprise world.

How secure are you? And if you’re not sure, or don’t feel secure, what are you doing about it?

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