What a change 2020 brought to the U.S. job market! During the span of just a few months, most states in the U.S. went from historically low unemployment rates in February 2020 to historically high unemployment rates by April 2020. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Michigan’s unemployment rate soared to 24% of the working market, setting an all-time historical high. The most recent data for Michigan is from December 2020, which shows a 7.5% unemployment rate in the Wolverine state. Today in the U.S. we are around 6.3% unemployment, which is nearly double the U.S. unemployment rate from February 2020 (just 3.5% one year ago). The answer is clear, isn’t it? It seems to be an employer’s market!
And yet, the struggle to find talent persists
First, we have to ask ourselves, who is unemployed? We are not seeing skilled trade professionals unemployed, nor are we seeing professional service professionals (finance, engineering, legal, human resources, IT) unemployed. Instead, markets that have been affected by COVID are retail and hospitality, with restaurants, entertainment, and small retail outlets without an online presence hit especially hard. When you look at it from this angle, unemployment rates have nothing to do with whether the U.S. job market is an employer’s market. I will take the statement a step further and state that the roles aforementioned; skill trades and professional services, we are still near historically low unemployment rates.
Next, we have to look at what the candidates want, and what the employers are willing to give. I can guarantee that close to a 1/3 of the (currently unemployed) candidates for any role my firm speaks to only want to hear about fully remote opportunities. We are finding it nearer to 1/2 of candidates with those that are gainfully employed when they speak with us. A large portion of the job market wants to continue to work from home.
A market divided
What I am finding is that the market is so divided it can make it difficult for employers to even interview a qualifying candidate. If that candidate requires a remote position, and the employer is unwilling to allow for that, then an impasse happens, and the opportunity passes. An employer that must have their employees in the office; even if offering a mix of three days onsite two days remote, is limiting their candidate pool to 2/3 of an already low unemployed market.
What should employers do?
Take the lead and determine where it makes sense to allow for fully remote positions. Working from home is more of a benefit to the candidate than it is to the employer. Candidates save generally an hour of their day without a commute, save on gas and depreciation of their vehicle, and generally have no additional costs. Most of the candidates I am referring to already have internet service and cell phones, and the ones that want to work from home even tend to have a home office ready for occupancy. Employers, take advantage of the long-term potential of cost savings that can come from a remote workforce and don’t lose out on the one candidate that is perfect for the role who doesn’t want to go into the office.
Truth is, COVID was the catalyst for a remote workforce and whether we would have gotten here without the pandemic forcing our hand is a moot point. Change has happened and will continue to roll on in, with or without our consent. Thinking in our old ways or hoping for the pandemic to return to “normal” is not going to push your company forward with today’s workforce.
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