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The weird state of the job market.

I teach a class called “CMMA 485 Portfolio” and, in it, I try to prepare graduating seniors to go out and find a job in the cold, cruel world. We talk about the kinds of careers they want to have, balancing work/life issues, interviewing, resumes, cover letters and the students also create a portfolio website to showcase their work to potential employers. Because of the class, I am paying more attention to the economics of the labor market in the US and the only thing I can say, for certain, is that it’s weird out there.

Yes, this really is a picture of me at that podunk radio station in Kankakee.
Yes, this really is a picture of me at that podunk radio station in Kankakee.

I came out of college (along with Abraham Lincoln, Moses and Betty White – God rest her soul) a long, long time ago. The job market, particularly for my particular set of skills, was tight. A broadcasting job? Good luck! 7000 other graduates were fighting for the three open slots in the entire country. Luckily, and to my parents’ great relief, I found gainful employment at a small, podunk radio station in Kankakee, Illinois. Best job I ever had…aside from my current position, of course. Since then, the job market has risen and fallen but mostly risen….until 2008 when everything everywhere went to hell.

My point is that, right now, it’s weird out there. In January 2022, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 467,000 in January, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 4.0 percent”. So….half a million people found a job but the number of people collecting unemployment benefits hasn’t changed. Huh? And those types of wacky numbers have been reported for several months now. It does not compute.

So I’m trying to explain what it’s like out there to my students but I can’t because it is unlike anything I have ever experienced. For example, there is an online job site called IHire. IHire’s unique selling proposition is that you can electronically subscribe to specific industries so that your email will only be clogged up with information about jobs you sort-of care about. Interestingly enough there is “IHire Broadcasting” that lists just media jobs. Wish I’d had that back when Moses and I were looking. The good news is that there are way more than three job openings in the Chicago media market.

Of course IHire wants you to pay a fee to get access to all of the information in a job listing but, in their defense, they offer a free account for students. Yet it’s still weird out there. Here’s a sample of a few job listings in my most recent email: Data Insights Editor , Events and Promotions Manager, Assignment Editor  , Supervising Producer WGN Weekend News  . As you can see, there are traditional jobs out there, albeit with a digital twist, as well as some nontraditional media jobs.

Bottom line is that I think my graduates will have an easier time finding a job in their field than I did. Or Moses.


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