INDIANAPOLIS, IN (May 10, 2021) – According to research by Jobvite, during the winter of ’20-’21, job seeker activity, as measured by application volumes, closely followed changes in Covid restrictions. Overall, application volumes were down approximately 10% compared to the previous winter. However, the application volumes fluctuated and were not consistently down throughout the entire December through February period, generally reflecting the up and down nature of Covid restrictions and shutdowns. The beginning of December 2020 saw higher application volumes as compared to December 2019. But then application volumes dropped as lockdowns and restrictions tightened in late December and January. As restrictions eased in February, application volumes began to pick up; and this trend continued into March.
“Looking back over the last year of Covid, the overall trend in application volumes is really a story of inconsistency and fluctuation. Increases in application volumes have been quickly followed by renewed Covid restrictions which reduced job seeker activity and ultimately application volumes,” said Jobvite’s Chief Data Scientist Morgan Llewellyn, PhD. Llewellyn continued, “On the bright side, the Spring of 2021 should be a period of favorable comparisons for many organizations as look back comparisons will incorporate Covid 2020 results.”
The drop in application volume during the winter is paired with a dip in overall employment and hiring activity in the United States as reported by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS reported that total hires during December 2020 through February 2021 dropped approximately 8% from the prior year period. At a regional level, the only region to record an increase in hires was the Midwest (+4%) while hires were down sharpest in the West (-14%). At the industry level, only Manufacturing and Wholesale Trade reported greater numbers of hires during the December to February period.
While job seeker and hiring activity were down, job postings were a bright spot. The BLS reported total job postings increased about 2.6% during December ‘20 through February ’21; compared to the prior period. Investigating job opening data further, there was significant variation at both the regional and industry levels. At a regional level, new job posting activity was strongest in the South (+ 8.9%), while posting activity was weakest in the West (-4.6%). At an industry level, manufacturing saw the greatest increase in job posting activity (+31%) and strong demand continued for Professional Services (+14%) and Healthcare (+13%). Industries that saw job posting activity decline included Information (-29%), Financial Services (-18%), Leisure and Hospitality (-15%) as well as all levels of government.
How should conflicting job opening and application/hire activity be interpreted? The growing gap between openings and application/hire activity may be an indicator of a strengthening economy where postings are a leading indicator or perhaps a tight labor market brought on by a discouraged or unengaged workforce. While this analysis does not speak to which reason may be driving the disconnect, it is worth noting that the drop in hiring activity partially validates the feelings of many job seekers in the market today. Specifically, Jobvite found that 73% of job seekers reported that finding a job has gotten harder.
A year into Covid, rules of thumb are forming over how organizations should anticipate the impact of Covid on the labor market, job seeker behavior, and overall application volumes. Companies that added headcount in April 2020 should anticipate increased application volumes during the run up and implementation of new or added Covid restrictions (December 2020 and January 2021). As Covid restrictions relax, those same companies that expand with Covid restrictions tend to add fewer positions (February and March 2021). On the other hand, Jobvite is seeing that those companies hit hardest by Covid do see a dramatic and sharp upturn in job seeker behavior with the easing of Covid restrictions.
“There is no doubt that 2020 and early 2021 challenged many organizations and families. During the winter, significant portions of the world implemented Covid restrictions and shutdowns. Despite the restrictions implemented from December through February, job seeker and employer activity held up well when compared to the shutdowns of the Spring 2020. We anticipate greater vaccinations, reductions in Covid restrictions, and increased job postings will translate into greater job seeker activity during the Spring of 2021. However, this optimism is moderated by uncertainty over concerns about labor force participation and the on-going Covid situation.” said Jobvite’s Chief Data Scientist Morgan Llewellyn, PhD.
Jobvite is an end-to-end Talent Acquisition Suite that takes a marketing-first approach to intelligently attract dream candidates, automatically screen for the highest quality, engage employees invested in the future, and retain the people who care the most about your organization by combining the power of AI and the human touch. Jobvite is proud to serve thousands of customers across a wide range of industries including Ingram Micro, Exelon, and Premise Health. To learn more, visit www.jobvite.com or follow the company on social media @Jobvite.
 Per the BLS, the civilian labor force participation rate in the United States dropped from 63.3% in February 2020 to 61.4% in February 2021.