Bridge Insights

What’s in Store for 2021: Job Market and Staffing Trends

Dec 17, 2020

What can we say about 2020 that hasn’t already been said? In fact, I think some of us might be tempted to not speak of it at all. As much as we may want to put the box labeled 2020 in the darkest corner on the highest shelf in our brains, that decision may be ill-advised. The impact from the events of this year won’t go away when the clock strikes midnight on January 1 –and that’s true not only of our personal lives but of the job market and employment world as well.

The things that shaped our personal lives in 2020 (a national pandemic, an economic slowdown, rising sociopolitical tensions, growing frequency and severity of natural disasters, the existential crisis from Netflix shows like The Social Dilemma, etc.), will have lasting effects on the corporate world, too.

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that none of us have a crystal ball, but there are certain trends from this year that provide insight into what we can expect moving into 2021:

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Unemployment Rates and Economic Recovery

Jumping right into it: Unemployment rates and job numbers. Right now, the dominant force driving the jobless numbers in America is the US’s ability to recover from COVID-19. At this point, recovery from COVID-19 is inevitable; the question, though, is how quickly recovery can take place.

US Unemployment Rate from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics

The good news is, when we look at unemployment rates from the second part of 2020, it logically stands to reason that the decline in jobless numbers will continue –at least in the early part of 2021. Current projections state that some “return to normal” can be expected sometime around May.

There is a little bit of a catch: the rate of decline is slowing. Though some exponential decay is expected as jobless numbers go down, 2021 optimists are hopeful that recent news regarding COVID-19 vaccination distribution will help accelerate the rate at which jobs return and help bolster overall economic recovery.

The 2021 Job Seeker

So, what does this mean for job seekers and attracting talent to your team? Even though there are plenty of job seekers out there, to say it is an employer’s market is generous. The 2020 employment landscape has made job seekers more apprehensive, and they might be remiss to take the first job offered to them.

Many professionals were blindsided by the large-scale corporate downsizing that occurred this spring. Those who were laid off or furloughed want to do everything in their power to protect themselves professionally (and financially) from going through that again. Just as much as job seekers are looking for new opportunities, they are not going to jump whole-heartedly to be a part of a team where they can’t see a future.

Even where the incentive to work is high, job seekers are more diligent in their job search, asking questions not only about the short term but the long term, too. Don’t be surprised if you continue to receive interview questions geared towards the future from your candidates.

In 2021, job seekers will be looking to join teams that are focused on flexibility, fostering healthy work-life balances, and have invested in technology. This is the focus for two reasons: Not only does this show a company’s ability to pivot should another crisis occur, but it is also indicative of how well a company listens (and responds) to the needs of its employees.

Additionally, financial circumstances in 2020 caused many professionals to take jobs that may not have been wholly in line with their career goals. Your 2021 recruitment efforts may benefit from bolstering your passive recruitment strategies, too.

All in all, the employment experiences of 2020 mean the onus falls to leaders to sell professionals on the benefits of joining their teams –and a sales pitch that relies solely on a generous salary might leave something to be desired.

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Growing Industries and Job Creation

The economic slowdown of 2020 impacted different industries differently. While some industries downsized, other industries were booming. The uptick in consumer need for financial services, technology, supply chain/logistics, health and sanitation products, and virtual call center/customer support roles are almost certain to continue into the early part of 2021 and possibly throughout the entire year.

Though these industries and positions are thriving at the moment, it is important to remember the strength of these industries is contingent upon a consumer base that is willing to spend money, and there is a notable moment of apprehension in consumer buying behaviors.

Looking Ahead

As things stand, the American economy very much feels like a calm before the storm. Though we may not know what the change will look like, we all know it’s coming. The silver lining is that many Q4 current events and economic changes are setting the stage for economic recovery in the year ahead.

Though the pace of recovery may be dictated by the logistics surrounding vaccination distribution and herd immunity, the American populous is cautiously optimistic that 2021 will be a year of recovery and modest growth.