COVID-19 has changed everything we thought we knew about hiring and searching for jobs.
Some new information is alerting us to how the seasonal job market for the upcoming holidays will be stressful this year, especially difficult for smaller businesses.
The labor shortage, spurred by a number of things during the pandemic, is causing the hiring process to be a bit more complicated. That’s why experts are urging businesses to get started now on finding seasonal workers.
“The hiring process is taking a while and you need a lot of runway to get the people that you need,” said Casey Hasten, director of recruiting for DFW-based hiring firm, VIP. “We are seeing some strange times in the hiring world right now.”
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“People that are going back to work are being super choosy,” said Hasten.
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Willing workers are hard to find and people are able to negotiate perks as desperate employers give anything to get them on staff.
Businesses like 7-Eleven, Chick-fil-A and many restaurants are offering incentives like higher hourly pay and signing bonuses.
UPS is even slashing the lengthy hiring process, giving people job offers within 30 minutes of applying.
Some like Target are also offering free tuition. Walmart announced plans to hire 20,000 workers who are eligible to receive debt-free bachelor’s degrees through the company’s Live Better U program.
Amazon said last week it will hire 125,000 employees, including thousands in Texas, at an average starting wage of more than $18 per hour with a $3,000 sign-on bonus at certain fulfillment centers.
Hasten said the big struggle this season will be for small businesses, who simply don't have the money to offer types of perks that bigger companies are giving out.
As many have most likely noticed across North Texas, smaller shops and businesses are in desperate need of staffing.
"Around 49% of small businesses stated that they have openings they cannot fill. It's hard for them to keep raising their hourly salaries when they can't compete with those bigger companies like Target, Walmart and McDonald’s. McDonald's is offering some pretty nice wages right now, too,” said Hasten. “I don't know how small businesses are going to do it and be competitive. It's a very difficult scenario out there right now."
Experts are advising smaller businesses to really tap into college students for help soon so they’ll be ready to work as soon as winter break begins.
“Get out there to those colleges and universities, and community colleges -- because those kids are about to be on break and they’re going to want to earn some extra money during the break,” said Hasten.
Business owners should also tap into their current workers to find internal referrals. Local perks that might not break the bank include increased pay and offers to cover parking or bus fare.
It also goes beyond the holidays. Businesses are now focused on hiring people who will stay rather than temporary workers.
As the labor shortage continues, companies are also being realistic about their hiring goals for the holidays.
Target actually plans to hire fewer seasonal workers this year, instead offering more to the employees it does have.
In fact, recruiters predict retailers will add 700,000 workers this holiday season, over 36,000 less than last year.
Despite the hiring perks, analysts are warning that high consumer demand and low staffing during the holiday season could make lines long and tempers short, according to NBC News.
“We’re predicting retail sales will be up this year over last year — and retailers have to get ready for that,” said Melissa Hassett, vice president of recruitment at ManpowerGroup Talent Solutions staffing agency, told NBC News. “Hiring intention in the upcoming quarter is higher than ever.”
Either way, at the start of the pandemic, millions of people -- mostly women -- have completely dropped out of the workforce for health and family reasons, layoffs, or child care. That number has continued to climb this year.
Despite federal pandemic unemployment benefits expiring last week, jobs are still going unfilled.
According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy added just 235,000 jobs in August and lost 29,000 retail jobs.
There was also a 44% decline in retail applications per opening in August since the start of the year, compared to a 19% decline across other industries, according to data from talent cloud company iCIMS.
It now takes 40 days to fill a retail position, a 21% increase from April this year, iCIMS reported.