It was déjà vu all over again in January — or so we thought. Omicron continued sweeping the nation, causing waves of absences and a return to remote work for many companies. The effect was so pronounced that economic forecasters were preparing employers for bad news on the job-creation front. Miraculously, those grim projections didn't pan out.
Let's dive into the latest labor market indicators to unpack what this turnaround means and highlight the areas employers should prioritize when it comes to hiring this month.
job creation stands strong
The Omicron variant caused nearly nine million Americans to call out sick in just under two weeks to start the year. Logic would tell us that with staffing shortages at that scale, employers would be spending the month just trying to keep operations above water, let alone expanding them. However, the reality turned out to be quite different. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 467,000 new jobs were eventually added in January — far exceeding the initially dim forecasts. That alone should be enough to allow employers to release a much-needed sigh of relief, but the news gets even better: The BLS also released revisions to its November and December figures, discovering that approximately 700,000 more jobs were created than were originally reported.
Our internal data sheds light on where all this new hiring activity is happening. The job categories that saw the most postings for January were:
- warehouse workers, forklift operators and picker/packers (5,789 postings)
- assemblers (1,497)
- software developers (1,165)
Our partner site, Monster.com, reported top postings in fields like:
- health practitioners and technical occupations
- transportation and material moving occupations
- sales and related occupations
- computer and mathematical occupations
All told, job postings on Randstad are about 30 percent higher than they were this same time last year. However, finding enough workers to fill all these open positions continues to be a challenge. Employee quit rates declined in December, the last time numbers were available. But that was only a .2 percent decrease following a historical high of 4.5 million workers leaving their jobs in November. While experts expect this downward trend to continue, that's still a lot more workers leaving their jobs than employers would like.
how to succeed in a job seeker's market
In order to stave off turnover and create the kind of workplace culture that can attract talent with multiple options, our experts recommend the following:
stay serious about safety
The Omicron wave may be receding and states may be starting to lift mask mandates, but employers can't afford to be lax when it comes to workplace safety. Seventy-three percent of Americans said they are somewhat or very concerned about workplace standards and cleanliness. And most surveyed workers cited uncertainty around vaccine requirements and colleague behavior (i.e., company policy enforcement) to be their primary concerns about returning to the office.
Nearly one in four workers cite flexibility as the most important benefit they look for in a job. Remote work has shown that it is here to stay, with just over half of surveyed workers telling us they would even consider taking a job outside of their country if it can be done remotely. However, flexibility can apply to onsite workforces as well. Employers in those situations can look to flex scheduling, four-day work weeks and giving more say to employees during shift selection.
keep pay rates competitive
Fifty-two percent of Americans said they're looking for a new job because they don't feel like they are being fairly rewarded for their work, and 59 percent said compensation and benefits were the most important considerations when making career choices. No wonder then, that salary-increase budgets are the highest they've been since 2008. Employers looking to attract and retain talent this year will have to keep up, and ensure they're paying competitive wages for their local market.
Prioritizing skilling can help employers in the two areas they need it most: hiring and retention. Fifty-eight percent of workers think they need more training and development to stay relevant. Seventy-nine percent also agree that to retain or increase their future employability, they need to continue learning and development efforts. With workers still firmly in control of the current hiring market, once-ancillary benefits like career advancement and training have been pushed to the forefront of employee expectations when evaluating employers.
the bottom line
The lived employer experience of January 2022 turned out to be quite different from the reality portrayed by the numbers. Healthy job creation, combined with positive revised figures from November and December, now present employers with strong cause for optimism. Still, workers remain in the driver's seat, meaning employers will have to work hard to find talent to fill the growing number of open roles. Safe workplaces, flexibility, competitive pay and robust training and development programs will be key to standing out from the crowd.