(CNN) — The U.S. unemployment rate dropped in November to 3.7%, its lowest level since 2000, as the economy added 312,000 jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
For some workers, that decline could be a sign that employers are pulling back from recruiting and hiring. But for many other workers, it may just be a sign that many other workers were laid off earlier this year.
When the U.S. economy is expanding and the unemployment rate is low, it can be a good time to search for a new job — but a very bad time to go back to looking for one.
“How many people think ‘I really want to work, so why don’t I just wait until the unemployment rate goes down?’” said Jeremy Bauerlein, a US News and World Report editor who leads the JobSeekers.com network of online job sites. “But if you don’t want to wait any longer, you’re going to go out and look. You’re going to try to land one of those gigs, even if it’s half-and-half or just no. You’re going to go out and try to apply, because it’s better than seeing your resume on another website.”
Bauerlein said that nearly everyone he has talked to about this, who still has jobs, says they would apply for jobs they had already been offered if they weren’t so certain that they wanted to leave that job.
“For some people it’s a do or die situation. For others it’s: ‘I want to work. I am ready to go. I am ready to climb back up,’” he said.
There’s an even longer list of reasons why some workers would be better off going back to work. For the first time in ages, a shrinking labor force has actually turned workers into potential job candidates, said Teri Buhl, director of research at the National Association of Professional Employers.
“We’re now seeing a decline in the labor force participation rate, meaning there are more workers who are available than are available jobs,” she said.
“The unemployment rate has come down dramatically,” Buhl added. “And so if you go back to school or start training, that will affect your future potential opportunities.”
Job seekers, especially part-time workers and those who have recently left the workforce, may find it tough to get back into the job market.
“It is hard for them to break back into the labor market because everyone in the hiring community is looking at the same set of resumes,” said Nancy Ray, owner of Seekers.com.
Ray’s members, who offer a half-dozen sites, include Monster.com, Indeed.com, CareerBuilder.com, Vistaprint.com, OneOffer.com and Dice.com.
Many of the online career services let you create up to 50 resumes with different job descriptions — so if you get laid off, and now you have a new career you’re seeking, you can create one entry on those services to remind employers of that.
Theodore Dooley, president of the National Association of Professional Employers, said he doesn’t believe all of those people are getting laid off, even if they are frustrated.
“There may be a smaller component of people who are truly being laid off, but they’re discouraged,” he said. “They don’t have a high level of motivation to look for a job and they’re not out there recruiting for one.”
Buhl said that others may simply have lost their jobs and are walking around in a daze, doing nothing but eating and catching up on Facebook.