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Opinion: LinkedIn chief economist: Gen Z should be feeling great about the job market right now

Opinion by Karin Kimbrough for CNN Business Perspectives

Young workers who entered the US job market in the throes of the pandemic in 2020 faced an uphill battle. Hiring on LinkedIn dropped off dramatically, and widespread layoffs hit Gen Z more severely than most other groups.

Fast forward two years, and the picture looks much brighter for Gen Z and younger millennials joining the workforce today. Despite recent headwinds like inflationary pressures and geopolitical tensions driving economic uncertainty, opportunities still abound for entry-level roles in the US.

Here are some key findings from a recent LinkedIn report that looked at the top trends and industries for those just starting out.

Hiring rates are rebounding

Workers with fewer than four years of full-time work — namely new grads and those just starting their careers — are experiencing a steady comeback after the 2020 drop-off. LinkedIn data shows overall hiring rates in 2021 recovered from pandemic lows, up 25% from 2020. And while Gen Z hiring rates still have room to catch up in the overall recovery, they also rebounded in 2021 — up 15% compared to 2020.

Companies are signaling that they are ready and willing to hire more young talent, with employers planning to hire almost 30% more new grads than they did in 2021, according to a recent survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Entry-level opportunities are growing fastest in Sun Belt cities

While the big coastal cities like New York City and San Francisco continue to attract droves of new workers, a few smaller cities top the list for the fastest-growing cities for entry-level roles.

LinkedIn data shows Austin, Chattanooga, Raleigh and Charlotte are now the fastest-growing markets for entry-level roles in the US. There are a lot of upsides to working in these Sun Belt cities. Particularly, they’re more affordable to live in compared to bigger cities, which is especially top of mind given that rent prices are hitting new highs.

HR, hospitality and health care top list of industries hiring for entry-level roles

At the industry level, staffing and recruiting, hospitality, and health care and biotech are the sectors that saw the biggest gains in openings for entry-level jobs.

Hospitality — one of the hardest-hit sectors during the 2020 lockdowns — has made a roaring comeback, as increased travel and tourism has driven up the need for these businesses to ramp back up hiring activity to keep pace.

And health care continues to prove a booming sector for jobs of all levels, with roles like vaccine specialists (some of which are entry-level) — which made up a tiny fraction of open roles pre-pandemic — becoming one of the fastest-growing jobs on LinkedIn right now.

Jobs are evolving

Many young professionals — and especially new grads — are often thinking first and foremost about how to market their existing skills. And while that will always be a necessary tactic in landing a role, what’s becoming increasingly important is also being able to communicate a willingness to adapt and learn new skills along the way.

Research from LinkedIn shows that, on average, the skill sets for jobs have changed by roughly 25% since 2015. In other words, an entry-level data scientist today has to bring some different skills to the role relative to what the same data scientist brought five years ago. What can set young professionals apart in the job search is demonstrating an understanding of the evolving nature of the industry, and a willingness to keep learning on the job.

Those who do this well will be better positioned to weather the storms of turbulent job markets, and stand out among crowded applicants pools.

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