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The 2019 Compliance Job Market: Is It Frozen or Are There Still “Hot Spots?”

For the past 15 years, the compliance job market has been booming. Compliance compensation has skyrocketed. It has become a subject taught by college professors and a career track never before considered by law students. Huge amounts of ancillary job growth have resulted as a heightened awareness and interest in all things pertaining to compliance.

Beginning with the 2003 mutual fund scandal straight through the 2008 credit crisis, compliance officers in the financial sectors have enjoyed an incredible ride and tremendous success. In other areas outside of financial services, like healthcare and life sciences, compliance officers have also been in high demand. The 2010 Affordable Care Act and ACA Compliance overhauled the existing system and imposed a full suite of new record keeping requirements, ensuing tax reforms, data privacy and GDPR issues/requirements—all of which have been a boon for the previously gloomy and seemingly insignificant back office function.

However, times seem to be changing, and there are complaints of less movement and less activity in the job market.

Employment Outlook

A recent observation made by the chief compliance officer of a NYC-based hedge fund was: “There is a general stasis across the industry. That is, we have no new hedge fund rule to speak of, no new general compliance rules on the horizon in the U.S.… and in Europe, MiFID II has been rolled out and people just aren’t afraid of the SEC walking in the door….” It may be sector specific, though, because outside of financial services, according to a recent article published by Deloitte on the 2019 Regulatory Life Science Regulatory Outlook, we can expect to see more growth and attention given to compliance this year. Their experts are saying, “The best time to pursue compliance modernization is when there is less buzz about new regulations and current requirements are leveling off or scaling back.... Looking ahead, compliance modernization is likely to receive significant attention from life sciences companies.” So while market volatility may be the ideal climate for a hedge fund, generally speaking, big swings are less than ideal for sustained healthy job growth.

So which is it? Could a few months of market undulation really create enough panic to sufficiently slow hiring activity? Was it the government shut down? Or is there the combination of multiple forces at play: No new apparent rules and regulations creating a frenzy resulting in high demand and local politics creating “site strategy” relocations?

The first quarter of 2019 for many sectors was slow, but it appears the job market is bouncing back. March saw a rebound in job growth after a reportedly slow February. According to the Washington Post, “The low level of hiring in February now seems like an anomaly, possibly been caused by employers’ hesitation to bring on new employees in the deep of winter and an economic hangover from the  lengthy government shutdown.” MarketWatch was quoted saying, “The rebound in hiring might temper unease about the economy after a rocky start in 2019. Although a spate of large companies have announced layoffs recently, most firms are still looking to hire. One of their chronic complaints: A shortage of skilled labor.” The healthcare industry continues to be the leader in new job growth. According to a recent CNBC article, “Healthcare led with 49,000 new workers; professional and technical services added 34,000; and food and drinking establishments contributed 27,000.” However, the automotive industry, financial firms and the retail industry are recording significant lay off numbers. The numbers are more than 35% greater than a year ago in 2018. It appears that worries about an economic slowdown are the main drivers.

There are hot pockets across the country, and opportunity is there for the taking. The technical talent pool is tight and companies are offering attractive relocation packages. According to a recent Forbes article, the Sunshine State is at the top of the list recognizing huge job growth in Tampa and Jacksonville, then followed closely by Raleigh, North Carolina and Boise City, Idaho. As Silicon Valley has gotten over crowded, many tech giants have set up shop in these locations to attract new talent. With a recent uptick in healthcare, manufacturing, and oil and gas, cities like Houston and Boston are also looking for technical talent.

The lack of skilled labor means the ball is in your court. Focus on your core strengths, your technical skills and areas of expertise. Might there be an opportunity outside of your current market? It may not be your first choice, but exploring a job opportunity in a different city can yield new and exciting life experience. The pendulum can certainly swing, but in the meantime, make hay while the sun shines.

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