Kimberly Simmons has heard the tropes about people being too lazy and not wanting to work. It’s a tempting analysis with all of the “Now Hiring” signs outside of businesses, but Simmons, who manages a workforce development program, tries to keep participants focused on the positive, telling them they can leave the COVID-19 pandemic in better shape than they started.
Participation in the New Beginnings program at Indianapolis Urban League declined during the pandemic, Simmons said, but those who enroll now do so because they have an opportunity to find jobs they wouldn’t have considered before.
“They’re stepping out on faith in hopes of securing positions with a livable wage with better conditions,” Simmons said.
The job market is in an odd place — low unemployment, high labor participation, lots of job openings — as it stabilizes after getting knocked around during the height of the pandemic.
The most recent employment report from the state showed the unemployment rate at 2.2% in April. Labor participation was up to 62.6%, slightly higher than the national average of 62.2%. The total labor force, which includes the employed and those seeking employment, was at 3,347,813, an increase of 15,383 from March.
Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne said the combination of a low unemployment rate and lots of job openings means there are good opportunities for people either looking to change jobs or get back into the workforce.
While some have called this time the “great resignation,” Payne prefers a different perspective, referring to it instead as the “great reassessment.” He said people appear more willing now to get extra training and education, and job seekers can be more selective rather than taking the first offer that comes their way.
Felicia Gilbert reassessed her situation in 2021 when she quit a job that wasn’t paying enough to support her and her two children. Gilbert, who’s completed New Beginnings and other programs at Indianapolis Urban League, was without a job for a couple of months before landing at Eskenazi Health as a patient service assistant in the cardiology department.
Looking at the job market now, Gilbert sees a discrepancy, especially as inflation continues to rise.
“The pay don’t match with the market rate for anything,” she said.
Eventually, Gilbert wants to start her own transportation company focusing on non-emergency medical transport.
On the other side of the job market oddities is Courtney Kendrick, a flight attendant who has felt the brunt of being short-staffed in a profession that’s been among the hardest hit.
Kendrick said the base amount of hours a flight attendant flies per month with her company is 75 hours, but anymore it’s been common to fly for 95 hours or more.
“I won’t say overworked, but I will say overwhelmed,” she said.
Still, Kendrick said she isn’t considering leaving.
“I have not lost the love of my job and what I do,” she said. “I still find joy in what I do, but it’s definitely been a struggle.
“I’m gonna fly until I can’t fly anymore.”
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.