How would you describe the state of the US economy thus far in 2018?
Very strong. Last year, we talked about how the President was making decisions that were largely based on creating benefits for US businesses. The stock market has been an on upward trajectory since last spring and we had a big tax package passed at the end of 2017, which significantly lessened the tax burden for corporations and allowed them to repatriate money. The tax package and reduced regulations have driven corporate profits, and those profits have led to greater corporate confidence. Corporations are using the cash generated from reduced taxes, repatriation and increased profitability to engage in share buy backs, mergers and acquisitions, and initiating new projects and capital investments and hiring.
In the financial space, rates have gone up but companies remain bullish. Despite the increase, rates are still historically low and we are not seeing much inflationary pressure at this point. Real estate prices are still strong and oil prices have gone up. We haven’t seen the big federal infrastructure package yet that was promised, but if that goes through, it could also have a major impact. The bottom line is that there hasn’t been a better time to be a corporation in a very long time.
As a side effect, companies are investing in infrastructure and ramping up their recruiting efforts. In the past, we’ve talked about the War for Talent. We don’t see that changing in the short-term as competition for top-tier candidates continues to be fierce and expensive. Expect to pay up for the best talent in 2018 and beyond.
But there’s still a lot of white space around what else 2018 will bring. We anticipate more opportunities in healthcare and education. One example of corporate growth and transformation, as well as disruption, is the announcement earlier this year that Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase would create a new healthcare company. We’re very interested to see how that develops.
What can you tell us about the state of the job market?
As we’ve said before, we see real growth in jobs in the areas of digital, artificial intelligence, cloud technology, natural language processing, data science and other areas of emerging technology. That kind of technology is enabling better service quality in a range of different industries and also transforming traditional jobs. For example, we can anticipate that tax returns will become more and more self-serve and automated. Any kind work that is formulaic is vulnerable to being automated. In that example, a CPA might be more valuable as a strategic advisor to create the most favorable tax scenarios, rather than as a tax return preparer. We anticipate that nearly every part of our lives will be leveraging these technologies in five years. Companies need to hire the right skills to prepare for that.
How is the job search and recruiting process adapting?
As good as sites like LinkedIn are at parsing data and filtering candidates, there still is no substitute for surfacing the intangible qualities and interpersonal skills one on one. Those “soft skills” we’ve mentioned in the past are still highly sought after and cultivating and amplifying those skills will make candidates more desirable. In fact, you could argue that the soft skills are becoming more and more important in an increasingly technology integrated world.
Where do you see the biggest opportunities in the job market?
We’ve seen a lot of activity around healthcare and lifestyle sciences. Our healthcare system has been antiquated for so long and it’s a sector ripe for investment and growth. Also, it used to be said that finance ruled the world, but we’d argue that media now runs the world. Thus, we see lots of growth and opportunity in media as well. Here are some stats on other industries that are poised for tremendous growth in the next 5 years:
- Green Energy: The cost of renewables is plunging faster than anticipated as the efficiencies of wind turbines and solar panels increase. This, coupled with huge advances in energy storage, will see the continued decline of fossil fuels. Incumbent businesses like Shell and BP are shifting their focus to renewable options as consumers gradually adopt clean energy options.
- SaaS: Between 2016 and 2020, the global SaaS (anything as-a-service) market is forecasted to grow by 40 per cent each year
- Mining/Oil/Gas: Extraction services for oil and gas represents the fastest-growing industry in the U.S. (data from Sageworks)
- Construction-Related Industries: Building finishing contractors, architectural and engineering firms and companies involved in heavy construction and engineering projects (other than roads and bridges) each posted double-digit sales growth in 2017
- Cybersecurity: In the wake of the many massive data security breaches and online privacy concerns, companies are spending significant sums to protect themselves and their users