When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, it caused the immediate shutdown of many offices, small businesses, and retailers, either sending employees home or forcing them out of work.
Now, a year later, the U.S. unemployment rate is around 6%. That’s a considerable improvement from the nearly 15% rate in April 2020, but it still means that millions of people are out of work. Some of those job candidates have been unemployed for even longer due to other economic factors preceding the pandemic: An estimated 4.2 million people have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more and are considered “long-term unemployed” by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But some employers are having a hard time finding candidates to fill their open positions or to help them expand as the world tries to catch up to everything lost in the past year.
It seems like a paradox: There are jobs to be had and people who can fill them, but long-term unemployment remains a problem.
Why is this happening, and what can be done?
Lack of confidence.
Some people who struggled to find a job before the pandemic might be anxious about getting back into the working world because things are still uncertain. Illness cases are still on an upswing in some areas and, if they have any health issues or pre-existing conditions, there might not be a strong motivation to get back to work. There might also be a concern that another wave could force another shutdown, even as more people get vaccinated, and more regions reopen. It’s also possible a bad experience with a former employer could dissuade someone from seeking full-time work, preferring instead to be underemployed and working part-time jobs instead. Or, for longer-term unemployed people, they might be afraid that the gap in their work experience will be a deterrent to hiring managers and decide simply to stop looking.
The “wrong” kind of jobs are available.
Going hand-in-hand with concerns about the virus, some people have received a taste of working from home before being laid off and enjoy the flexibility. But the jobs available right now are more often requiring in-person labor: grocery stores, factories, restaurants, and other occupations that cannot be done from a second location. People concerned about the virus might shy away from those jobs a little longer as a way to protect themselves and their families, and some employers can’t accommodate those types of requests.
Hope of a return to a previous position.
When businesses closed their doors last year, they might have left their workforce in an uncertain position: Will they be called back when things normalize? These potential job candidates might be living on unemployment benefits and savings, plus any income from their spouse or partner, and managing to make ends meet in the meantime while waiting to hear whether they can go back to their previous job. There’s a lot of confusion in the world right now, and this adds to it. Without a good incentive to join a new company, they might prefer to bide their time until getting a clear answer, especially if they really enjoyed their previous work.
Some people are unaware of taking the skills they’ve used in previous jobs and applying them to other positions. There’s a general unawareness of transferable skills that can be useful in a variety of work environments: good communication skills might not be the first thing a person thinks of when filling out a job application or looking for a new opportunity, but it could be time management skills, organizational skills or other abilities that have broad appeal to hiring managers. If they don’t feel qualified because their work history doesn’t match a job description, they’ll keep looking.
For hiring managers and business owners, these are difficult challenges to address. Many are beginning to offer incentives to try and sweeten the deal for potential candidates. If you can offer flexible schedules, a signing bonus, more vacation time, reassurances about the safety of your workplace, or other incentives, it might help draw in reluctant or uncertain job candidates. There are people out there, but it’s still going to be a while before things settle down, and people are as comfortable working in industrial environments as they were previously.
If you’re looking to add to your team but aren’t sure where to start, contact Debbie’s Staffing today. We have a database of job candidates looking for employment and ready to come back to work as soon as you’ll have them. Call us today, and let’s get started.