As of July, there were 1.7 jobs for every unemployed person, meaning employers are competing for workers in many industries.
While not all employers can afford to offer cost-of-living wage increases, some are increasingly open to providing other benefits, such as more remote work options, subsidized child care, or coverage of commuting expenses, according to Johnny C. Taylor Jr., chief executive officer of the Society for Human Resource Management.
“With inflation, employees that are otherwise happy at work are forced to look for another job. It’s a retention problem,” he said. “You might have an employee who loves their workplace, but they’ll say, ‘I have to go across the street for the job that will pay me 20% more.'”
Some companies are also better prepared to withstand an economic downturn than others, which is worth considering amid fears that the U.S. could be headed for a recession.
“The companies that are recession-resistant are typically those that sell consumer essentials, provide critical repair services, or manufacture or sell proprietary or specialized products,” said Gonzalez.
Demand for these goods and services typically stays more or less the same regardless of consumers’ budgets. The food industry, grocery stores, power plants, waste management, pharmaceutical, and healthcare companies also weather economic instability well, she said.
How much you’ll be paid is key, and how you look at your income depends in part on your industry.
For Justin Taylor, a restaurant worker based in Minneapolis, it isn’t only a question of how much he can make per hour, but also how much he can get in tips.
Taylor increased his salary from $15 per hour to approximately $20 per hour when he changed jobs from Chipotle to a local restaurant. His previous job didn’t include meaningful tips from customers while his current job does, significantly raising his take-home pay.
Conversations around pay are rarely transparent. If you're not sure what the average salary in your industry might be, the the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a list of average wages and salaries in most sectors.
If you find a job that pays more per hour but requires a longer commute, it might not work out to be much of a pay raise, after factoring in gas or the cost of public transit.
“I wanted to be close to my home, I was just trying to save money on transportation,” said Taylor.
Before his new job, Taylor used to commute 30 minutes each way on public transport; he now travels on his electric scooter for less than 10 minutes.
With gas prices higher than a year ago, Taylor also decided to sell his truck and start using more affordable alternatives. Survey data shows that 64 percent of U.S. adults have changed their driving habits or lifestyle since March of this year, according to the American Automobile Association.
If you can take public transportation to your job or you pay for parking, check with your potential new employer about whether the company offers pre-tax benefits.
For some, good benefits might include health insurance or retirement contributions. For others, working from home a few days a week or having on-the-job training are great bonuses.
“The work-life balance is equally important. (Workers) should inquire about vacation and sick day policies, as well as work-from-home flexibility,” Gonzalez said.
That was the case for Taylor, who approached his job search with the goal of having more flexibility.
"I'm a person, I have a life outside of work and wanted to have more control. That was really important, too. So I went in letting them know 'Hey, I will need this day off,'" said Taylor, who is also a member of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a non-profit organization that advocates for workers' rights.
Eugene Natali, a financial literacy expert and CEO of Troutwood, a financial planning app, said growing your skills is especially important when there might be a recession looming.
Auto mechanics, for example, should take every on-the-job training and get every certification offered, he said, to make themselves more valuable to their workplace and more attractive to potential employers if they should need to change jobs.
Blair Heitmann, a career expert for hiring platform LinkedIn, encourages job seekers to think about company culture when looking to change roles.
Reaching out to current and former employees, researching press and social media and even reading earnings reports are some of her recommendations.
Websites such as Indeed and Glassdoor have user-generated reviews of workplaces and some offer pay ranges for certain companies.
This research can also help give you insight into what makes a business run, which can give you a leg up in an interview, she said.
Stephanie Stathas, a licensed therapist with Thriveworks, which provides in-person and online therapy, says that identifying healthy workplaces can help reduce job stress.
“If a work environment doesn’t have good management or doesn’t find that time to appreciate the individual for what they do, a lot of people can tend to feel down about themselves,” she said.
But it’s more nuanced than just appreciating workers, she added, as employees also need the ability to set boundaries with their workloads.
The Associated Press receives support from Charles Schwab Foundation for educational and explanatory reporting to improve financial literacy. The independent foundation is separate from Charles Schwab and Co. Inc. The AP is solely responsible for its journalism.