Help wanted: a sign for the times


If you’re looking for a job, you’re in luck because help-wanted signs seem to be strewn everywhere these days. I waited in line for 20 minutes at Tim Hortons drive-thru just the other day for an egg and cheese croissant. 

When I pulled up to the window, a sweaty teenage boy handed it to me in a huff and said, “Sorry, we’re super low on people lately.” 

I saw a very un-ironic help-wanted sign boasting of competitive wages and flexible hours on the drive-thru window.

It’s unlikely that Tim Hortons is going to have an easy time hiring new teens. Unemployment rates are staggeringly low at 4 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal. This means that companies have positions open, but are struggling to fill them since there are less people looking for jobs. This is known as a “tight” job market, and it’s a great advantage to anyone in college.

Many of us need that side hustle churning out lattes, bussing tables or watching someone else’s children while we’re in school. But these employers can take advantage of their workers when the labor force is plentiful. I once worked at a call center and heard my boss tell the employees that, “Every one of you is very replaceable, I can fill your job in a day if you leave. So you better shape up because your jobs are not a guarantee.”

If you are feeling trapped by your current job, then you are never going to have an easier time leaving and finding a new one. 

Businesses are competing for our labor everyday and you can expect to see better offers. I myself left a minimum-wage gig and found a better job that paid $17 an hour this year in addition to gas coverage and other perks. 

If you are also part of the labor force, getting paid an hourly wage in retail, customer service, etc., this is your chance to get more benefits. 

Now is the time to use your negotiating skills. If you are looking for a job, research the average pay for that position and make sure that they offer you at least that amount or more. If companies have more capital to hire then they have capital to pay you enough as well.

Do not just take whatever comes your way first, either. That coffee shop near your apartment is hiring but so is every other in town. Hear everyone’s offer first and then take the job with the most benefits.

If you have to drive to this job, ask if they will cover your commute expenses. If you have a job that you plan to stay with then ask for a raise. 

The tight job market gives the labor force a chance to harness power in the value of our work, but it’s not going to be here for long. It’s going to peak and decline like any trend in the economy. Right now it looks to be that we are peaking, so strike while the panini press is hot for that sandwich-shop job. 

This all sounds really great for the college labor force right? Not necessarily. 

There’s one side effect of a tight job market and it’s called inflation. With unemployment rates very low right now, prices are set to increase. You’ll need more of that coffee-shop money to pay for your own coffee, gas and groceries. Those rising prices are going to affect people in college and the lower-working classes, so make sure you keep that in mind in the coming months when you ask for a raise or new job.

The takeaway from this labor trend should be that paying attention to the nation’s economy can benefit your life greatly in college. My attitude before embarking on this self-education endeavor was that since I didn’t have any money, I didn’t need to worry about national markets. But knowing about trends will help you make decisions about how to utilize the few dollars you have in the best way possible. 

Isabella Nurt is the assistant features editor and can be reached at isabella.nurt@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @Nurt_Spectrum.

Isabella Nurt


 Isabella Nurt is a junior film production major. She is keen to get off campus and cover underground topics in the greater Buffalo area.