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Blog>Jobs Reports>Q2 2021 United States Job Market Report

Q2 2021 United States Job Market Report

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The U.S. has entered a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over half of the eligible population is now fully vaccinated, and two-thirds of adults have received at least one vaccine dose. As a result, most COVID-related restrictions have been eased, and the economy is operating at levels much closer to normal. But while hiring has picked up significantly, the unemployment rate remains several percentage points higher than pre-pandemic levels and many workers are still struggling to find the right job.

Over the past three months, we surveyed over 30,000 job seekers across the country to get a better understanding of today’s job market. How are job seekers reacting to potential employer vaccine mandates and incentives? What is causing the widely-reported labor shortage affecting the hospitality industry? How has the pandemic changed job seeker views on workplace benefits? And how are recent graduates faring in their summer job searches? Read on for a detailed breakdown of these key issues, and more, influencing the job market in Q2.

Key Insights

  • The majority of American workers are now comfortable with in-person work. 55% of all job seekers are comfortable with in-person work, but the results vary significantly by vaccination status: 72% of fully vaccinated and 68% of partially vaccinated report being comfortable with in-person work, versus only 32% of unvaccinated workers.
  • Employer vaccine incentives could be effective. 28% of unvaccinated job seekers report that they would be willing to get the vaccine because of an employer incentive, such as cash or perks. An even higher percentage of unemployed job seekers who are unvaccinated (39%) say that they would get vaccinated in exchange for an employer incentive.
  • Hospitality jobs are unpopular, and raising the wage may not be enough to lure many former workers back. 38% of former hospitality workers report that they are not even considering a hospitality job for their next position. These workers are transitioning out of the industry in search of a different work setting (52%), higher pay (45%), better benefits (29%), and more schedule flexibility (19%). Over 50% of former hospitality workers who are looking for other work say that no pay increase or incentive would make them return to their old restaurant, bar, or hotel job.
  • Employers need to reevaluate workplace benefits post-pandemic. 74% of job seekers believe that employers need to re-evaluate the benefits that they offer after the pandemic. Healthcare, sick and parental leave, and flexible work schedules are the most valued workplace benefits, with over 50% of job seekers citing these as very important. The presence (or lack thereof) of these benefits is a major factor in attracting employees right now, with 55% of job seekers saying that they would even consider taking a lower-paying job if it offered better benefits.
  • Recent grads face a tough job market. 62% of recent grads think it’s more difficult to find a job this year than in non-pandemic times, and 48% of recent grads say that the pandemic has made them rethink the kind of job they’re looking for.
  • Encouraging signs. Job seeker confidence has been steadily increasing since December and is at the highest level since Joblist began tracking this metric in July 2020. The share of job seekers who view the market as “somewhat difficult” or “difficult” fell steadily throughout Q2, from 40% in April to 35% in June — fortunately, a new low point since the beginning of the pandemic. Although it remains a tough market, job seekers are seeing signs of improvement.

Vaccine Optimism

After a slow start, America’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout hit its stride, and now all Americans aged 12 and older are eligible to be vaccinated. In a recent survey of Joblist job seekers, many view the vaccines positively when it comes to the job market and in-person work.

More job seekers than not (42% compared to 25%) reported that the vaccines have made them more optimistic about the job market. Although this optimism is encouraging, a great deal of uncertainty still exists — about one in three job seekers are unsure about the vaccines’ impact on the job market.

Views on the vaccines’ impact on the job market are closely tied to vaccination status. Fully vaccinated (57%) or partially vaccinated job seekers (54%) are much more likely to report being optimistic about the job market than unvaccinated job seekers (26%).

According to our survey, 55% of all job seekers are now comfortable with in-person work at this stage of the pandemic. But again, results vary significantly by vaccination status — 72% of fully vaccinated and 68% of partially vaccinated report being comfortable with in-person work, versus only 32% of unvaccinated individuals.

survey-results-of-views-on-vaccines

As more and more workers return to the office or other in-person work, some employers have made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory. According to our survey, 57% of Joblist job seekers said that they would take a job with a company that required vaccination and only 27% of job seekers said they would not. Unvaccinated job seekers are much more likely (59%) to say they would not take a job with a company that mandated vaccination.

While most unvaccinated job seekers would not work for a company that required the vaccine, employer vaccine incentives could spur some unvaccinated job seekers to get their shots. Overall, about 28% of unvaccinated job seekers said they would get the vaccine because of an employer incentive, while 46% would not, and 25% were unsure. Unemployed job seekers were more likely to respond to a vaccine incentive than employed job seekers.

Hospitality Labor Shortage

Restaurants, bars, and hotels across the U.S. are reportedly struggling to find workers. To understand how real this labor shortage is, and break down the root causes, we asked workers about their interest levels in hospitality jobs and whether any incentives would make these jobs more appealing.

opinions-on-hospitality-industry

According to our survey, the majority of job seekers are not interested in hospitality jobs right now. The most popular reason for the lack of interest is that job seekers would prefer a different work setting (58%), such as an office. Job seekers also cited low pay (37%) and a lack of benefits (20%) as reasons why they’re not interested.

Workers with previous hospitality experience are significantly more interested in hospitality jobs than the overall average. However, in our survey, 38% of former hospitality workers report that they are not even considering a hospitality job for their next position. This represents a major shift, with a large percentage of the old hospitality labor force looking to transition out of the industry.

We find that hospitality workers who are switching industries are doing so in search of different work settings (52%), higher pay (45%), better benefits (29%), more schedule flexibility (19%), and remote work opportunities (16%). The pandemic created an opportunity for hospitality workers — many of whom were furloughed or lost their jobs — to reevaluate their employment situation and consider other career options moving forward. A significant percentage are clearly taking advantage and pursuing higher paying, less physically demanding jobs.

Many restaurants, bars, and hotels are raising pay and offering other incentives to try to lure workers back to their open roles. Unfortunately for employers, our survey results indicate that these incentives might not be enough to close the gap. According to our study, nearly 70% of job seekers who are not interested in hospitality jobs say that no incentives would change their mind.

For former hospitality workers, higher pay and incentives are slightly more appealing, but they still might not be enough. Job seekers with hospitality experience were more likely to respond that higher pay would incentivise them to change their minds (39% compared to 22% of job seekers without hospitality experience). They were also much more likely to say that more benefits (23% compared to 12%) or a bonus (20% compared to 9%) would help lure them back. Nevertheless, over 50% of former hospitality workers who are moving on report that no pay increases or incentives would make them return to their old restaurant, bar, or hotel job.

Renewed Importance of Workplace Benefits

The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly altered the job market, with many of its impacts likely long-lasting. As the U.S. saw the number of job openings reach the highest level since 2000 — when data collection began — the number of resignations also reached record highs. In April, four million workers quit their jobs.

As workers seek out new employment opportunities, workplace benefits are a top priority. We found that many workers are unhappy with the current benefits offered by employers. In fact, 74% of job seekers in our study believe that employers need to re-evaluate the workplace benefits that they offer after the pandemic.

While workplace benefits are not quite as important to job seekers as financial compensation, they don’t rank far behind. Nearly 80% of job seekers ranked workplace benefits as “important” or “very important,” and 43% of job seekers said that benefits are more important than financial compensation when considering a new job. 55% would even consider taking a lower-paying job that offered better benefits.

survey-results-on-workplace-benefits

However, not all workplace benefits are valued equally. Healthcare, sick and parental leave, and flexible work schedules are the most valued workplace benefits, with over 50% of job seekers citing these as “very important.” In comparison, less than 10% of job seekers said that free food and gyms are some of the most important workplace benefits. Among job seekers who think benefits are more important than compensation, 88% reported that healthcare is one of the most important workplace benefits.

The healthcare crisis caused by the pandemic has only increased the importance of employer-provided healthcare, sick leave, and schedule flexibility in the eyes of job seekers. Workers now value these even more so than financial compensation in some cases and are using the benefits package as a deciding factor when selecting between prospective employers.

Tough Job Market for Recent Grads

Recent college and high school graduates are in a better position to find jobs than last year, but they are still facing an unusually difficult job market. Making matters worse, new grads are also now facing increased competition from both 2020 graduates who didn’t find jobs last year and workers laid off due to the pandemic.

In our survey of recent graduates, 62% think it’s still harder to find a job this year than in non-pandemic times, and nearly half of recent grads say that the pandemic has made them rethink the kind of job they’re looking for.

job-outlook-according-to-recent-grads

Recent grads are split on how well their education helped them pick a career path and how well their coursework and training prepared them for their first job. 29% of recent grads are neutral about how much their education helped them pick a career path, while 21% said it helped a lot and 18% said it didn’t help at all, with the rest somewhere in between. Recent grads were similarly split about how well their coursework and training prepared them for their first job, with 26% taking a neutral position.

Besides creating a difficult job searching landscape, the pandemic has impacted the job choices of recent grads. 48% of recent grads say that the pandemic has made them rethink the kind of job they’re looking for, and 43% said hiring in their industry of choice has been affected by the pandemic.

Graduates of four-year colleges were more likely to report both that they are rethinking their job choices due to the pandemic (55% compared to 45% of high school grads) and that hiring in their industry of choice has been affected by the pandemic. 45% of recent four-year college grads said hiring in their industry has decreased, while just 6% said hiring has increased. In comparison, 17% of recent high school grads said hiring has decreased, and 19% said that hiring has actually increased in their industry of choice.

Job Seeker Confidence is Growing

Our measure of how job seekers feel about the job market each month — the Job Seeker Confidence Index — has been trending upwards since December and is currently at the highest level (67.3) since Joblist began tracking this metric.

q2-2021-job-seeker-confidence-index

Job seeker expectations improved from April to May and then remained nearly the same in June, coinciding with the vaccination slowdown. About 43% of job seekers in May and June expected the market to improve in the next month, up slightly from the 41% of job seekers in April. Job seeker views on the job market also made steady improvement over the quarter — the share of job seekers who view the job market as “somewhat difficult” or “difficult” fell from 40% in April to 35% in June — a new low point since the beginning of the pandemic.

As we move through the summer months, there are reasons to believe that this optimism will continue to grow. Despite an unemployment rate that remains several percentage points above pre-pandemic levels, the U.S. has a record number of job openings right now, and most of the economy has reopened. With more workers returning to in-person work, more vaccinations, and many schools and daycares returning to normal operations, the job market recovery should hopefully continue to pick up steam through the rest of 2021.

Methodology

We surveyed 16,111 job seekers about their outlook on the job market and expectations for the future. We surveyed an additional 1,199 recent grads about their specific experiences in the current market. Finally, we surveyed another 12,909 job seekers about a variety of topics, including the vaccine rollout, workplace benefits, and interest in the hospitality industry.

All 30,219 survey respondents were Joblist users in the United States. The surveys were conducted over the course of April, May, and June 2021.

This data has not been weighted, and it comes with some limitations. All of the information in this study relies on self-reporting. With self-reporting, respondents may overreport or underreport their answers and feelings to the questions provided.

The Joblist Job Seeker Confidence Index was created from several survey questions — how difficult job seekers perceive the market to be, how long they expect it will take to find a new job, and how optimistic they are about the future of the job market. Survey responses were rescaled and averaged to create a composite index. A Confidence Index of 80 or more would denote a very high degree of job seeker confidence, whereas a Confidence Index of 25 or less would denote an extremely low degree of job seeker confidence. Job seeker confidence has remained squarely in the middle of these extremes throughout the pandemic.

Fair Use Statement

It’s difficult to predict exactly what the future will hold, but we hope this data helps paint a more vivid representation of the job market in America today. Share these findings with your readers for any noncommercial use by including a link back to this page so they have full access to our methodology and results.

At Joblist, we know every job search is different. Helping you find the right job means surfacing results tailored to your experience, industry, and job priorities. Whether you’re a recent graduate, unemployed due to COVID-19, or looking for a remote-work opportunity that will let you keep your home office, Joblist will curate personalized matches based on criteria that you define. Even better, you're not alone in the process — Joblist enables you to share the list of jobs you're interested in with your friends, family, and others in your network so that they can also participate in your job search.

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