By Mara Miller

Unemployment Rates

In April 2019, the labor market was on a positive and powerful course. Over 263,000 new hires were added as the unemployment rate was at an all-time low of 3.6%, much better than the expected rate of 3.8%. This was the lowest rate since 1969 and stayed like this for the rest of 2019.

2020 started the year off with a bang by decreasing unemployment even further to 3.5%. By March, we started seeing the effects of the Co-Vid pandemic and the unemployment rate increased to 4.4%. The U.S. began to shut down and forced small businesses, garden centers, restaurants, daycares, and more to close their doors to the public. The result was layoffs, furloughs, and terminations. It was the beginning of a scary and uncertain time.

In April 2020, the unemployment rate skyrocketed to 14.7% as the economy continued to take a turn. Panic, anger, and frustration became normal emotions, especially for “frontline workers” – the grocery, retail, and restaurant workers, who helped keep things running despite the pandemic scares. Some employers offered hazard pay to employees who came in contact with the public. The hazard pay helped retain employees during this difficult time.

As we entered 2021, there was a noticeable shift in the job market. Although the shift is called many things, the most common name is “The Great Resignation.” Every month during 2021, an average of four million (4,000,000) people quit their jobs. Every. Single. Month. That is 48 million people over the year. 48 million times newly vacated jobs had to be reposted. 48 million times employers had to rehire for the same job roles. Out of the 4 million people that quit their jobs each month, 69% were caused by “Rage Quit” (an angry employee walking out on their job and never coming back). During this time, some businesses were struggling to hire people to fill open positions. A common phrase emerged: “People don’t want to work anymore.”

However, despite some employers not filling job roles that used to be easy to fill (fast-food, retail, and hospitality), unemployment rates continued to go down. In April 2021, 1 year after the highest unemployment rate of 14.7%, it was 6%. And in June 2022, a little over 2 years since the highest unemployment rate, it has come full circle at 3.6%.

The big question is: with millions of people quitting their jobs, how can the unemployment rates go down? Why are some businesses still struggling to hire?

“The Great Resignation”

“The Great Resignation”: Threat or Opportunity? A pessimist would question what is so great about it, seeing this time as nothing more than a threat to their business. An optimist sees the opportunities and possibilities right at their fingertips.

When employees started leaving the workforce in droves at the beginning of the pandemic, it was for several reasons: Layoffs, furloughs, terminations, and more. Another factor in the dwindling workforce was the number of employees that decided to retire early. During this time, people were retiring younger and faster. This was on top of the Baby Boomer generation reaching retirement age. “The Great Retirement” showed a surplus of 2.6 million retirees, leaving the labor market at a further disadvantage. Health and safety concerns, caregiving needs, rising asset values, and other factors contributed to their decision. Although many retirees would re-enter the workforce, it would take some time. In the meantime, a few factors were put into motion that would influence and change the labor market.

Newly homebound employees with time on their hands decided to use this time wisely and pursue better employment opportunities. They dusted off their resume and started applying to jobs that complemented their lifestyle and skillset. Work-from-home jobs were suddenly in high demand. It wasn’t that people didn’t want to work or would rather sit on the couch in their pajamas. It was out of necessity.

As candidates and retirees search for careers, a list of their “necessities” take precedence. Each job board filter selected is designed to bring them closer to their best-fit job. Just like employers list their “requirements” in the hopes of finding a “unicorn” candidate, candidates have their list of “requirements” to fulfill to find their “unicorn” career.

So what are these requirements candidates are looking for in their next employer?

  1. Easy application process

    1. Straightforward
    2. Quick to complete
    3. Explanation of next steps
    4. Respectful
    5. Engaging experience
  2. Open communication

    1. Job Role Transparency
    2. Engage with candidates
    3. Work / Life Balance
    4. Positive culture
  3. Better Pay and Benefits

    1. Salary Transparency
    2. Top-level compensation for top-level talent
    3. Competitive to the industry and the area competition
  4. Career Advancement Opportunities

    1. Upskilling
    2. Provide a career path
    3. Provide training, coaching, mentoring
  5. Remote and Hybrid Options

    1. More productive at home
    2. Caregiver for children/relatives
    3. Work / Life Balance
    4. Health concerns
    5. Stress and burnout

Can’t afford to pay a higher salary or to provide benefits? To attract candidates, sweeten the deal with sign-on bonuses, pay for necessary licensing, and offer Remote/Hybrid options. If this is not an option, employers must understand it will take much longer to fill job roles. Much longer than it has in previous years.

The job market is a new game. Candidates have leveled the playing field. They’ve provided the new rulebook on what they want in an employer. Are you willing to play by the rules to get the top talent you want and deserve?

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