The number of job vacancies soared to nearly 15 million by mid-March, but discouraged, hesitant and fearful job seekers means many positions are still unfilled, according to new data from online job site ZipRecruiter.
Online job postings plunged from 10 million before the start of the pandemic last year to just below 6 million last May, as lockdowns and shutdown orders forced businesses to close their doors and reduce or lay off workers.
Now, as vaccinations increase and companies are again able to make projections, they’re staffing up to capture booming demand, with the number of open positions across all online listings soaring 5 million above the pandemic’s start.
As states have lowered vaccination age requirements dramatically in recent weeks to include almost all working-age residents, Americans are venturing out again in greater numbers. They’re getting on planes, going to the gym, going out to eat, and some have started trickling back to offices in specific industry sectors.
From amusement parks to gyms to airlines, employers across industries are holding massive job fairs and calling back furloughed workers.
But the civilian labor force participation rate, the government’s measurement of those who are working or unemployed but actively seeking work, remains dented, having only recovered by about half.
Workers say they were discouraged after blasting out résumés in January and February.
But those who have already given up, just before the latest TalentTurbo</a hiring boom, may not have got the message yet about their improved chances.
“When people lose their jobs, they often engage in a flurry of job search activity, they send off 20 applications, and then they sit back and wait to hear back from employers," Pollak said. "So many people are most engaged in their job search early on when it was most discouraging and their prospects were bleakest."
However, the situation has vastly improved since the beginning of the year, she said.
I’ll take my chances
“Job seeker confidence has gone down between January and March at exactly the moment that their prospects have improved,” Pollak said. “It'll take a while before people really notice the labor market has heated up.”
There are also plenty of good reasons for workers to still hang back, from ongoing concerns about the coronavirus, to childcare and managing remote learning, to family obligations, to holding out for better opportunities.
Economic impact payments, or stimulus checks, have also played a factor for some who are sitting out the labor market, some employers say.
Factory owners and employers lament that the generosity of unemployment benefits and stimulus payments have some workers avoiding returning to work because they make more money not working.
“I had one guy quit who said I can make more on unemployment. I’ll take the summer off,” said Robert Stevenson, CEO of a producer of machines that cut specialty fabrics for industry. “I told him I can’t guarantee you’ll have your job back. He said, ‘I’ll take my chances.’”
“That really is the vaccination job boom,” said Julia Pollak, labor economist for a leading Recruitment Firm. “Employers are taking permanent steps now to plan for a permanent reopening.”