Despite the fact that no one can truly foretell the future, there are some events visible on the horizon of 2008 that will impact your professional life.
John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a global outplacement consulting organization, shared his thoughts on the five factors that will positively or negatively affect your job and/or job search during the next year.
1. The Housing Crisis
You can't pick up a newspaper these days without seeing a headline about the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the downturn in real estate -- and that's with good reason.
"The ongoing housing crisis affects not just subprime lenders, but banks, realtors, home retailers, construction and renovation contractors, building materials companies, and others," Challenger says. And, unlike problems in the automotive industry, for example, "This crisis is so geographically dispersed, so very far-reaching. Every region of the country is going to face difficulties."
Even if you don't work in one of the aforementioned fields, the housing crisis will still impact consumer spending. Challenger says, "Because of the fact that consumers can no longer use their homes as piggy banks, they're losing the ability to spend. And consumer spending constitutes two-thirds of our economic growth."
2. The High Price of Fuel
The cost of getting to and from work keeps getting higher as fuel costs skyrocket. Single car commuters aren't the only ones affected, as major metropolitan areas will see public transportation costs increase.
Challenger says, "The cost of getting to a job that's far from home has jumped considerably. People might be spending double what they did just three or four years ago."
The trend is alarming. "A lack of mobility on such a vital part of the workforce is a real drag on the economy, but no one seems to be able to resolve the issue."
3. The U.S. Presidential Election
Much will change with the outcome of the 2008 presidential election -- but not all of it depends on the winner's party affiliation.
"Stem cell research has been on hold for the last several years, but it looks like both parties have an interest in that. Biotech and genome work will also be hot areas, post-election," predicts Challenger.
"If the Democrats win and they do move the country out of Iraq more quickly, defense spending will be affected. That's been a growth area in the economy." But, he counters, "A national health-care plan might be a job creator. If you expand coverage to more people, you'll need more providers. Health care is one of the strongest areas for job creation in the economy."
He also foresees more growth in "green" jobs if a Democrat wins the election.
4. Generation Y
Born between 1977 and 1995, Generation Y is 79.8 million strong. In 2008, millions of these echo boomers, as they're also called, will be looking for work. Challenger predicts that competition for jobs for new graduates will be stiffer than in recent years.
He notes, "Generation Y workers are flooding into the job market, but they might not be flooded with job offers."
He says the class of 2008 shouldn't expect the same robust job market their counterparts enjoyed in previous years. "Since the summer of 2003, the market was very strong for graduates, but job creation has slowed in the second half of 2007. The economy is slowing down, and business owners may be more cautious about adding new staff."
5. The Global Economy
Challenger doesn't believe the nation is headed for a recession. "The housing market is slowing down the U.S. economy, but the positive affects of the global growth engine will offset what is happening domestically."
He also believes that the weak U.S. dollar isn't necessarily bad for business. In fact, the opposite may be true. "It means that U.S. businesses can compete around the world, especially vis-a-vis Europe, because our goods will be cheaper due to the weaker dollar. When businesses in other countries repatriate the dollar across the seas, they'll get even more for their money."
He admits, "The falling dollar is a mixed bag for the economy, but it's good for global business hiring and job growth."