Editor’s Note: Karin Kimbrough is the chief economist at LinkedIn. The opinions expressed in this commentary are her own.
The US is experiencing a historically tight labor market. The speed of the current recovery is far outpacing the last recession, and the supply of available jobs is still well above the demand from job seekers.
Open roles posted on LinkedIn have nearly doubled since the beginning of the year, as employers send a clear signal they are back and eager to hire. So what’s holding workers back? New data from LinkedIn sheds light on a few driving factors, but the good news is that there are ways companies can overcome these hurdles and better attract and retain talent.
Worries about the Delta variant
Delta variant concerns are widespread across all segments of the workforce.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the share of people who had a job, but were absent from work due to illness, was at 1% last month — the highest since January, and well above the typical rate of 0.6%. And in a new LinkedIn survey, one-third (33%) of workers who’ve thought about changing jobs within the last year say that the Delta variant or fear of a new variant has delayed their job search.
Fear of Covid exposure is a factor for almost all candidates eyeing a new job opportunity, especially in fields like hospitality and health care, where options for remote work are much slimmer. We know from our data that the sectors that do offer remote work are more likely to attract attention: The share of US remote job listings on LinkedIn attracts twice the share of views and 2.5 times the share of applications when compared against job postings for on-site roles.
A year and a half into the pandemic, employees are carefully weighing the potential risks of in-person work, and companies that provide remote options are helping to ease fears of exposure.
Exploring a new career
The economy is also experiencing a record number of resignations and job changes as employees rethink why they work and what they want out of a career.
We see it as the “Great Reshuffle” of talent and opportunity. On LinkedIn alone, we’ve seen the share of US members changing jobs surge over the past three months — up 50% from 2020 and up nearly 30% from even pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
At the same time, other workers are hitting pause or opting out completely, as 42% of working Americans we surveyed have considered taking a break from their career, and one recent study shows more than 3 million Americans retired early because of the crisis. More workers across the board are on the sidelines.
High quit rates are actually often the sign of a healthy and recovering labor market, where workers feel more confident in their prospects to go out and secure a better deal elsewhere. And this current moment of widespread career exploration may also help explain why workers are being more selective in the job search, holding out for the right opportunity versus jumping at the next best thing. Many are leaving for better compensation or more flexibility, while others are looking for something new and more fulfilling in their work: 73% of Americans who say the pandemic changed the way they feel about their career also feel less fulfilled in their current jobs.
For employers, there is an opportunity to cater to this need and weather the churn through expanding opportunities for internal mobility for workers eager to try something new. Our data show that employees at companies that allow them to change roles internally stay almost two times longer than those at companies that don’t. And employees are more engaged, too. Employees who have found new roles internally are 3.5 times more likely to be engaged than those who haven’t.
Many in the workforce are worn out from a year of juggling health care and childcare burdens, on top of the increased blurring of home-life and work-life lines.
Burnout has been on the rise, and women and people of color who are over-represented in frontline work and managing care giving responsibilities have been hit the hardest. Of working women we surveyed, 41% say they’ve been working more since the start of the pandemic. And among Latino professionals surveyed in August, more than one in three (37%) said they were thinking about leaving their current job. While job opportunities are plentiful, we’re hearing from workers that tipping the work-life balance scale back in their favor is more important than ever when it comes to committing to a new role.
Businesses need to take these concerns seriously and restructure the way they manage distributed teams to ensure that clearer boundaries are set for workers who feel overwhelmed and overworked. Dedicated weeks off for mental health and recharging can help employees immensely during this period of heightened stress.
While there are many factors at play shaping these unusual labor market dynamics, ultimately this moment also presents a unique opportunity for employees and employers to rewrite the social contract of work in a way that embraces what employees need to be their best selves and do their best work.
It will take more time for this reshuffling of talent to settle down, but employers who address employee concerns now can start filling roles faster and chart better outcomes for their businesses and their teams in the years to come.