Here's some maybe-good news for job seekers: it seems like a lot of people are managing to switch careers these days.
More than half of all job openings, for all industries and occupations, are now being filled by people who didn't previously work in that industry or occupation, according to a recent analysis of economic data by Bart Hobijn, a researcher at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (h/t the Wall Street Journal).
This statistic is potentially heartening news, since the country is still grappling with a pesky unemployment crisis, the kind where more than 12 million people are looking for work and can't find it. It's good to hear that a high number of people are having success starting over in new jobs and new fields -- it may mean that the labor market's problems aren't primarily caused by major, systemic changes to the American economy, the kind of thing that would take many painful years of adjustment.
On the other hand, it would probably be a mistake to assume the unemployment glut will just sort itself out. For one thing, there are still a lot of job openings going unfilled because employers can't find applicants with the particular skills needed.
For another, Hobijn's paper points out that a lot of the people who make the shift to new jobs or new industries will find themselves earning "substantially lower wages" once they do so. That's no good, especially since so many people are already struggling to cover the basic costs of living.
And of course, jumping into a new field isn't easy for everyone. Baby Boomers have had an especially challenging time finding work in a new industry since the economic downturn took hold, according to the Associated Press -- which could become a problem for the members of that generation who want to retire but can't quite afford to do it yet.