As the U.S. economy expands during recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, job openings have risen to a record high dating back to December 2000. Job openings rose almost 10% to 8.1 million in March 2021 according to ABC News quoting government reports. While jobs rose in industries like bars, restaurants, hotels, retail, and construction, they fell in healthcare and transportation.
Complicating the good news about job openings are factors like the $300 weekly supplemental unemployment aid keeping people from lower-paid work. On top of this, having children at home for remote school and lack of childcare are pushing many parents away from work. Additionally, COVID-19 has contributed to a severe shortage of workers especially in areas highly dependent on seasonal hospitality, like Cape Cod.
Temporary work visas for workers in areas like the coastal town have been seriously hampered by travel restrictions and embassies shutting down or operating at reduced capacity. Efforts to address these challenges have not kept up with the needs of employers who have hundreds of unfilled openings and no applicants. Businesses have had to cope by closing one to three days of the week, and offering signing bonuses to applicants.
The job opening data comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic’s monthly report, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). The report showed that in March 2021 there were 1.2 unemployed people for every open job, compared to .82 at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. Record high vacancies are for both skilled and unskilled labor.
Reuters journalist Lucia Mutikani explains that the surge in job openings is from the fiscal stimulus and better public health due to the vaccination availability causing more businesses to return to pre-pandemic operations.
Some are blaming the unemployment benefits extension on the worker shortage. However, experts like Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank President Loretta Mester say those benefits are not causing the worker shortage problem. Rather, she says health concerns about COVID, school closures, and challenges with childcare are the real reason. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also disagrees that unemployment checks are to blame.
As Recruiting News Network (RNN) previously reported, ZipRecruiter labor economist Julia Pollak has explained how people are reluctant to return to pre-pandemic work conditions and are remaining cautious. People are wary of in-person jobs and are looking for remote options.
Many openings, especially seasonal openings in tourist areas, aren’t getting filled because of the lack of temporary work visas as embassies are closed or operating in a limited capacity due to the pandemic. This applies to thousands of summer camp jobs as well. Camps that rely on foreign candidates for their seasonal staff are looking at a staffing crunch as the U.S. opens up with vaccination availability and people are eager to return to pre-pandemic activities. But visa processing holdups and COVID-19 travel bans and delays mean a shortage of foreign seasonal workers.
With normal numbers of camp counselors between 12,000 and 13,000, camp directors like Scott Brody of Camps Kenwood and Evergreen in New Hampshire are seeing a reduction to 5,000 applications. And processing those applications is delayed by U.S. embassies being closed or having limited hours for in-person appearances. It’s leaving applicants and employers alike hanging without a way to fill the openings needed for business operations. Many camps are in the position of not being able to open or pivoting to reduced services.
Record high job openings and record low applicants mean a problem for recruiters and employers. A pandemic-induced shift to remote work, a drop in active candidates, a population averse to change, and a record-high 42% of small businesses with openings they can’t fill mean recruiters are turning to non-traditional methods for candidate sourcing.
RNN discussed that employers like CVS are resorting to hiring employees from other industries. They are hiring furloughed employees from hotel chain Marriott for their retail openings and creating talent communities to facilitate this practice. Accenture, ServiceNow, and Verizon are following suit, with many saying that this practice may well last beyond the pandemic and become a new avenue for recruiters and employers to source candidates.
It’s no longer the case that a job posting gets hundreds of applicants. Employers are lucky to get a dozen responses to job postings because of the pandemic. A lot of employers have resorted to poaching employees by seeking out "candidates" who aren’t looking and offering incentives to come work for them.
Companies in technology, sales, finance, health care, legal, and trucking are actively seeking already-employed skilled workers and managers. This also means that employers are forced to raise wages and benefits to attract and retain employees who could be lured away by competitors.
Remote work, fears about the risks of in-person work, and challenges with childcare because of school closings have changed the hiring game, possibly permanently. The salad days of hundreds of resumes for each job posting are over. Recruiters and employers have to change their recruiting and hiring tactics to fill their openings. Partnering with other businesses for furloughed employees, reaching out to passive candidates with offers and incentives, and increasing wages and benefits for candidates and employees are the new norm.
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