Reports of lack of applicant interest in low-wage, part-time jobs are cropping up. The Indeed Job Search Survey from October 2021, polling thousands of employed and unemployed workers, showed a decrease in jobless responders actively searching for work. The overall job search was flat, the same as September. Indeed reports that the main reasons for the lack of interest in job search among the jobless include COVID fears, care responsibilities, and employed partners.
These findings are similar to the iCIMS October 2021 Monthly Workforce Report, a survey of thousands of employers and job seekers. Although job openings have increased over 85 percent since the beginning of 2021, applications have only increased 8 percent over the same time frame, leaving a huge gap.
The iCIMS survey shows that while there are overall low applications from all salary levels, applications for part-time jobs are down almost 40 percent. With applications increasing but at a much lower rate than job openings have increased, the gap is expanding. Retailers are feeling the effects of doubled job openings and lower application levels heading into seasonal hiring.
iCIMS reports that the retail industry has seen falling conversion rates for career site visits to applications for the last two years, indicating that candidates are less interested in retail work. Challenger, Gray & Christmas report that retailers are hoping the end of expanded unemployment benefits will ease the worker shortage despite other issues keeping people out of the job market.
But retailers know the seasonal hiring challenges are greater since the pandemic hit and are adding incentives to fill their holiday hiring rush. They are offering varying incentives such as higher rates, sign-on bonuses, full benefits, flexible scheduling, extended employee discounts, perks like paid tuition and training, on-the-spot hiring, and closing on Thanksgiving.
Emily Stewart of Vox and Rani Molla of Recode explore what’s at the root of the labor shortage in “Why everybody’s hiring but nobody’s getting hired.” Job seekers explain a mix of employer disinterest, non-communication, and lack of engagement in the recruiting process when applying for work. Unresponsive employers, along with more selective applicants, have created an incongruity in the current job market.
Another aspect of the mismatch is people who left careers at the beginning of the pandemic are finding it difficult to re-enter the job market at the same level they enjoyed pre-pandemic. A big factor in that is how fast skill requirements are changing, according to Harvard Business School professor Joseph Fuller. He says technology today changes so fast, that being out of the workforce for even a short time can set back skillsets, especially as the pandemic has greatly sped up automation and contactless services. He explains that twenty years ago, ten years of experience in a field meant employability in that field. Not so today, as skills are evolving at a faster and faster pace.
Additionally, AI-focused application processes using applicant tracking software (ATS) make it hard for applicants to be assessed fully as the software matches precise terms but can’t gauge potential. That makes talent acquisition (TA) technology that goes beyond traditional ATS so important. Replacing old ATS with new TA tech that reduces bias, adds diversity and inclusion in sourcing, with candidate scoring and resume parsing should be on every employer’s agenda.
Despite the labor shortage, employers are pushing to fill the increasing job openings, and they know it’s a worker’s market. According to ManpowerGroup North America President Becky Frankiewicz, businesses know they have to step up to attract workers because of challenges presented by COVID developments and applicant shortages. Employers are counting on financial incentives to close their hiring gaps, and know that they have to offer more to create applicant interest.
Amid the employer hiring push heading into the seasonal holiday rush, record numbers of workers are quitting. In September 2021, 4.4 million people left their jobs, according to the Labor Department. The biggest losses in September were in retail, hospitality, manufacturing, and healthcare, and essential frontline industries, according to Julia Pollack of ZipRecruiter. She describes the exodus as “dramatic,” and other economic experts describe it as a game of musical chairs.
High job openings and high quit rates are giving workers the ability to be more selective about job opportunities and forcing retail employers to offer higher rates, benefits, and perks that haven’t traditionally been available to low-wage workers. With workers changing jobs for faster wage growth and quitting due to pandemic and economic concerns, the quit rate is expected to continue at least until spring 2022.
A lack of interest in low-wage, part-time jobs is the current mindset among job seekers across all sectors, but particularly in hospitality and retail. It could well become the permanent mindset, as the pandemic has changed the economy and the business world and turned traditional work on its head. Planning for recruiting and hiring success in 2022 and beyond, employers have to consider making changes to ensure the workforces they need for business success.
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