Glassdoor Puts Numbers on Our Schizophrenic Job Market

Glassdoor is reporting an Employment Confidence Survey today that shows robust and increasing confidence in the job market– never mind most of the nation remains gripped in 9% unemployment with only a little hope of things getting better.

40% of respondents expect their company’s outlook to improve in the next six months and just 17% are concerned about a possible layoff, down from 26% in the first quarter of 2009. And there’s decent optimism that should they lose their jobs, 40% of them say it is “likely” they would find a new job matching their experience and pay within six months– the highest that number has been in six quarters. Glassdoor notes that “only” 35% of respondents expected to get a raise within the next 12 months, but given the top line economic data for the country, that still seems pretty healthy to me.

While unemployment is getting better, the numbers say as much about who uses Glassdoor as anything else. While millions of Americans seem trapped on the less-desirable side of a skills-to-jobs-available mismatch, there’s a full-on talent war going on in Silicon Valley, where not only engineers but talented startup executives and worker bees are flooded with offers. Culprits for this talent bubble are certainly companies like Google and Facebook and Zynga who are hiring large numbers of employees as fast as they can, but also to blame is the relative ease of starting a company and getting funding– which takes an increasing number of engineers and potential CTOs and managers out of the job market.

To wit: According to Glassdoor, more than one-third of employees expect to leave their job in the next three years, 28% expect to do so in the next two years and 14% expect to leave in less than one year. Add it up and nearly 60% of respondents in what’s supposed to be one of the worst labor markets in our nation’s history plan to voluntarily leave their jobs in less than three years.

It’s a stunning picture of a whole different kind of dysfunction in America’s job market. Typically even if you feel your job isn’t a risk, the fear of shrinking options makes most people clamp on to whatever job they have. But in this market, while millions lose their houses, those on the other side of that skills/need labor chasm have the world as their oyster and there’s little-to-no sense of clinging to your port in a storm. It’s another sign of how deeply a sense of employee/employer loyalty has eroded in our country in the last few decades. When my generation was coming out of college in the late 1990s, the idea of job hopping every few years was still a radical invention of the so-called “new economy,” but now it’s just how someone plans a career.

Part of this comes from employees: Entrepreneurship isn’t just mainstream in Silicon Valley, increasingly most professionals run their careers as if they’re free-agents, merely tied up in contracts from time to time. But it’s also the fault of employers. The rabidly-short term nature of the stock market has dramatically changed how companies view layoffs. Decades ago, layoffs were considered a last resort of a dying — or at the very least unprofitable– company. Today, they are a regular way to trim the fat, compensate for poor hiring decisions and meet quarterly numbers. Is it any wonder a dramatic shift in the use of layoffs has coincided with a dramatic shift in employee loyalty?

Companies gripped in the talent-war side of this economy are no doubt struggling to keep their best people. In the Valley this has taken the form of increasingly large retention bonuses, salaries and perks, and every single tech company will tell you that hanging on to employees is their number one risk factor. Part of this is the healthy churn of employees through the Valley’s ranks that keeps startups as competitive as the big companies. But part of it is in-demand employees’ revenge for decades of being increasingly expendable.

Glassdoor’s numbers also show another sharp divide in the labor market around gender lines. While nearly 40% of men are optimistic about a pay raise, only 30% of women are. Glassdoor ran the numbers for engineers and found good reason why: Women still make far less money than men. The gap ranges between 4% and 9%, getting larger as men and women become more experienced. That’s not too surprising given numbers that show gender parity in low-levels of management in the US, but that shifting dramatically as women climb the economic ladder. In the Valley, the gap is far less than the  20% gender pay gap nationwide, but it’s worrying for a place that prides itself on being a meritocracy nonetheless.

Mike is coming in town today. Who votes I demand a huge raise? [UPDATE: Glassdoor just sent me a spreadsheet of sample reporter salaries. Whoa, we are in trouble as an industry. Nevermind, Mike.)

(Photo by Thomas Hawk)