Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Job Market

So at the half-way mark of 2014, what does the job market look like for transportation, logistics and supply chain management professionals? My short answer is that it’s good, but not great. I might even call it very good for highly mobile candidates who have certain skills and experience. To be more specific, I would describe our job market in terms of good news and bad news.

The Good News:

_1 The job market in our industry is the best it’s been since before the Great Recession. It really started to bounce back in late 2011 and has continued to improve. And, I expect continued improvement through 2016 at least.

_2 The housing market has rebounded to the point where more people are not underwater on their homes so relocation is possible. Plus the overall improving job market makes it a bit easier for relocating spouses to find new employment. But this is still a challenge.

_3 If you are a safety, maintenance, operations or capacity development professional (and you are mobile), there are plenty of opportunities out there.

_4 Compensation/relocation packages are showing some signs of improvement. Are they where they need to be? No, but reality is starting to set in with employers.

_5 There just aren’t a lot of experienced (and mobile) transportation and logistics professionals. Especially on the “service provider” side, i.e. truckers, 3PL’s, freight forwarders, warehousing/distribution/fulfillment, final -mile, intermodal, etc. Over the past decade the transactional brokerage companies are really the only ones who have aggressively hired, trained and developed new talent. Unfortunately a significant number of those individuals do not stay in the industry and those who do tend to do very well and stay put. If you are a candidate, this is good news. If you’re an employer, not so much.

The Bad News

_1 Employers are being very selective. There is still a perception that there are “lots of good people out there looking for work.” So employers are not willing to “settle”. And if they do have to “settle” they will tend to hire on the cheap, promote from within or hire someone “from their network”. They are certainly not at the point of paying a premium (or paying a headhunter’s fee) for marginal talent.

_2 Given that employers are being “very selective”, the interview and hiring process tends to be increasingly long and tedious. However, we are starting to see employers losing out on candidates because they take too long to make a decision. Eventually, if this happens often enough, employers will begin to accelerate the process.

_3 The demand for sales professionals (direct contributors as well as managers) is way off. With freight volumes exceeding capacity at levels we’ve not seen in decades and no real solution to the capacity problem, companies are reluctant to add sales overhead just to generate more business they cannot handle.

_4 While the job market is the best it’s been since before the Great Recession, it’s still not back to 2004-2006 levels. Back then I would say that employers were so in need of talent that they looked for reasons to hire a candidate. Today it seems that we’re in a market where employers look for reasons NOT to hire a candidate.

_5 The uncertainty or lack of confidence with respect to our government continues to cloud expectations. I think it’s fair to say that most transportation/logistics industry leaders are concerned that whatever comes out of Washington is more likely than not to be unfavorable to their companies.

Ever the pessimist, I hope for the best but always expect the worst. But that said, I am actually pretty optimistic about the job opportunities in this industry. Stuff has to be moved from point A to point B and regardless of modes, points of origin and destination or the nature of “the stuff” being moved; it’s a process that requires equipment, facilities, technology, energy, money and people. It’s always a puzzle and it’s always changing, but it’s always there.

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