Spring Hiring Trends in the COVID-19 Era

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Recruiting unemployment

We’re living in uncertain times due to the coronavirus pandemic, so trying to get a firm grasp on trends can be hard in this rapidly changing environment. What may be a trend today may not be a trend tomorrow, but either way, we’re here to cover the trends and keep you informed.


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Trends for March

With all that being said, we’re going to focus on trends that are shaping the hiring landscape in the COVID-19 era. The last few months have been rough for employers and employees alike. New information from iCIMS reveals just how bad it was for hiring.

According to iCIMS’s Monthly Hiring Indicator (MHI), which gathers data from its database of more than 75 million applications, U.S. hiring in March dropped 5.3% before seasonal adjustments and 13.7% after. Job openings were also down, but the dip was less significant, posting a 0.6% decrease before seasonal adjustments and 3.3% after. Additional findings include:

  • Most sectors that iCIMS tracks saw drops in hiring before seasonal adjustments, except a small pocket of growth (0.6%) in manufacturing for the second consecutive month as domestic manufacturers responded to shifts in consumer demand, as well as supply chain disruptions.
    • The professional and business services sector still saw a gain in new job openings: a 4.2% increase before seasonal adjustments and 2.3% after. Retail trade also saw a 13.5% jump in new openings before adjusting for seasonality.
    • Education and health services struggled again to fill frontline roles in March, with a nonseasonally adjusted 4.0% decline in new hires (-4.5% after seasonal adjustments), though it is expected to see growth in this sector over the next few months.
    • The New York City and Miami metropolitan areas saw the sharpest decline in hires and new job openings, as tourism and travel were rapidly put on hiatus.
  • In the New York City/Newark area, hires declined 6% before seasonal adjustments and 14% after. New openings declined 13% before seasonal adjustments and 12% after.
  • The Miami area saw hires decline 23% before seasonal adjustments and 26% after. New openings declined 15% before seasonal adjustments and 11% after.
    • Still, there were pockets of growth in the following metropolitan areas:
      • Philadelphia (26% increase before seasonal adjustments and 8.6% after)
      • Phoenix (3.4% increase before seasonal adjustments and 2.0% after)
      • Seattle (8.3% increase before seasonal adjustments)

As we know, things did not improve much in April.

Trends for April

According to iCIMS’s MHI, in April, hiring dropped 42.9% (after seasonal adjustment), which makes sense when you factor in the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) April jobs report. According to the BLS, total nonfarm payroll employment fell by XX in April, and the unemployment rate rose to XX%.

Seeing the data may hit close to home for some who have suspended hiring or, worse, have had to lay off or furlough workers to make ends meet. But for some industries and businesses, hiring is full speed ahead!

Career site Monster.com has been keeping track of the trends it’s seeing across its platform, and through mid-April, it noticed two consistent trends:

  • Remote health care continues to spike week over week: Healthcare jobs remain at the top of job searches, with the broader phrase “healthcare” rising to the third most frequently searched term over the past month (following “work from home” and “warehouse worker.”) Interestingly, “medical billing” saw the highest spike in healthcare-related searches, and candidates continue to look for remote opportunities, demonstrated by “remote” becoming the top location searched in conjunction with medical billing over the past week.
  • Transportation is seeing larger increases in new job postings: “Heavy- and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers,” “Industrial Truck,” and “Tractor Operators” all saw a slight uptick in new job postings in April. This is in direct relation to an increase in searches for this category: “Truck Driver” jumped to its highest keyword search rates so far this year.

Pro tip for recruiters: Make sure you’re using the appropriate terminology in your job titles and posts to attract these jobseekers. Remember that nobody is searching for “ninjas” or “wizards”; jobseekers are searching for roles that are most familiar, so keep the terminology basic. You can always revamp the job title once the candidate has been hired if that’s what your company culture dictates.

At the end of April, Monster uncovered even more trends it’s seeing in the wake of COVID-19:

  • Future of work is changing: More than half of employers are recognizing that their ways of working will be forever changed, with 62% highlighting a projected increase in remote working, a significant decrease in travel and in-office meetings, and increased cleaning protocols. This is in line with the way workers felt in early April, when 46% of respondents felt their jobs would change as a result of COVID-19.
  • Job search on hold. The number of candidates putting an active job search on hold is increasing as they express anxiety, frustration, and a general sense of exhaustion with the current climate and the ever-changing state of the pandemic, as well as its impact on the jobs market and the economy.
  • Signs indicate that college students have started job searching again. “Entry level,” “intern,” “executive assistant,” and “office,” which all dipped at the start of the pandemic, now appear to be increasing in searches at the end of April.
  • Specific locations are outranking remote work searches. Despite experiencing increases in searches the past few weeks, “remote” is no longer in the top 10 location searches. It is now superseded by specific city/state locations searches such as Lafayette, Louisiana, where the local government asked the state’s governor for more flexibility in future COVID-19 emergency declarations, indicating a desire to reopen the economy sooner than the rest of the state.
  • Healthcare job search returns to specific jobs. Despite a decline in the broader keyword search for “healthcare,” candidates are increasingly using job titles such as registered nurse and nurse practitioner as well as broader healthcare positions such as dental hygienist, dentist, optician, and respiratory therapist.
  • The new frontline of job searching. As states start to open up their economies, keyword searches for roles in some of the first industries to open are on the rise. Services like shopping (personal shopper), personal care (massage therapist, esthetician, beauty consultant), and pet care (veterinary technician) all saw spikes in the last week of April.

While remote work searches were trending in mid-April, Monster saw a dip in this trend at the end of April, but again, give it a few weeks, and we’re certain Monster will see a different trend in the remote work area. As we know, employees are hesitant to go back to work, especially if they feel employers have not taken the necessary precautions to keep them healthy and safe.

Trends for May

Typically, the month of May signals the end of the school year for college students and the beginning of recruiting these candidates to temporary jobs or internships, but due to COVID-19, that’s changed, as well.

Monster recently conducted a survey with Wakefield Research among 1,000 U.S. adults aged 18–24 who are recent or impending graduates and 500 U.S. adults aged 18–24 who are nongraduates to get a pulse on where these candidates stand. The key findings are highlighted below:

  • Desperate times call for desperate measures: More than half (55%) of future grads who have applied to a job in the last 3 months have applied to a job they knew was not the right fit out of desperation.
  • Overqualified and under pressure: Sixty-seven percent of future graduates with at least an associate’s degree feel overqualified for an entry-level job, although 59% of all future grads said they would apply for jobs they knew they were overqualified for to increase their chances after going too long without finding one. Fifty-two percent would even accept a lower salary if they got desperate enough.
  • Debt = desperation: Sixty-two percent of future graduates with student loans are desperate to find a job due to their student loans. More than 3 in 4 future grads (77%) have student loan debt, with 35% having debt of at least $10,000 or more.
  • Willing to put in the time: Future graduates are willing to spend up to 45 minutes on average on a single job application, and at the height of a search, they spent nearly 7 hours a week on average looking for a job.
  • Real-world experience matters: Half of future graduates (50%) believe life experience should count as much as employment experience.

While the May Jobs Report remains to be seen, we can only imagine there will continue to be record numbers in unemployment; however, as more states ease back on stay-at-home orders, hiring could pick back up.

Hourly Hiring Trends

It goes without saying that many of the essential workers on the front lines of this pandemic are also hourly workers, and for those positions, hiring prospects remain good, but for nonessential workers, this pandemic is taking a heavy toll.

New Bluecrew survey results indicate hourly workers are bearing the brunt of unemployment and uncertainty in the face of the COVID-19-fueled recession. The survey features responses from 1,650 Americans, and 42% of hourly workers say they have already filed or plan to file for unemployment benefits, compared with just 17% of salaried workers. Over half (57%) are concerned they won’t be able to find a new job if they have lost or may lose their job.

Seventy-eight percent are worried they won’t be able to make ends meet during the pandemic, likely due to the fact that nearly half of hourly workers (47%) have less than $1,000 in savings. And more than a third (38%) believe it will take the job market 11 months or longer to recover once the immediate danger of COVID-19 passes.

Final Thoughts

Trying to predict hiring trends in the COVID-19 era reminds us of an old New England saying: “If you don’t like the weather, give it 20 minutes.” If you don’t like the current COVID-19 trends, we can’t say how long it will take for things to turn around, but we can offer some tips to help you succeed in times of uncertainty. Two experts weigh in with final thoughts:

“Even in a recession, hiring doesn’t come to a halt,” says Josh Wright, Chief Economist at iCIMS. “We are close to maximum uncertainty about the recovery, so business leaders should prepare to manage through both the downside and the upside scenarios. Importantly, that includes opportunities to innovate as we all adjust to a changed environment, as many employers shift to a remote work environment and recruit, hire and train new employees virtually.”

“As we continue to see the labor market rapidly change, companies and individuals need to adapt to these changes as the new normal,” says Brian Stern, President of Modern Hire. “For some businesses, the rise in candidate applications will start to come through in mass quantities—leaving them with no feasible means of sifting through the applications at scale to identify top talent.”

“To get ahead of this, companies should be proactive in adopting technology, such as pre-hire assessments that will support faster and more objective decisions about who to hire, virtual interviews, that drastically reduce logistical constraints and enable greater social distance, and tools like automatic scheduling that dramatically shorten the time-to-hire cycle,” Stern suggests.

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