Disappearing Job Seekers, Shrinking Workforce

By Cynthia Davidson
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The latest industry research confirms: Employers must enhance and diversify their recruiting and retention strategies—or risk limiting their talent solutions. Here’s a look at the numbers.

The labor market is churning, with more than five million job openings—nearly the highest level in 14 years—yet the workforce is steadily shrinking, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even with such abundant opportunities for job seekers, nonetheless people are staying put in their current position, or dropping out of the workforce altogether.

ASA commissioned Harris Poll to conduct a survey to delve deeper into these workforce trends and issues, which uncovered several key factors regarding U.S. adults’ potential and drivers to leave a position and seek a new job opportunity.


Fewer on the Job Hunt

Are employed adults looking for new opportunities? The study found that relatively few U.S. adults plan to look for work this year—six out of 10 express little likelihood of seeking a new job.

What about those that have dropped out of the workforce? According to BLS, the labor force participation rate—the share of the working-age population either employed or seeking a job—is down to 62.6%, from a peak of 67.3% in April 2000.

Labor force participation is projected to decline further as many job seekers become discouraged and more Baby Boomers reach the 55-years-and-older age group. Supporting these data, the ASA Workforce Monitor™ found that four out of 10 able-bodied, working-age unemployed adults (38%, excluding retirees) have no plans to even consider seeking employment in the next year.

More Seek Work-Life Balance

Do employees value quality of life or compensation more? Surprisingly, the study found that work-life balance trumps pay for many employees. Work-life balance and schedule flexibility ranked higher than pay or wage potential in what employed adults value most about their current jobs. But pay or wage potential and benefits would be the most important considerations in deciding to change jobs.


Fewer Willing to Relocate

How does relocation fit into the job seeker equation? More than seven out of 10 adults are unlikely to relocate for a new position. Half of those less likely to relocate say they like where they live and don’t want to change it, and four in 10 don’t want to leave family and friends.

Pay or wage potential would be most important in deciding whether to relocate for two-thirds of those more likely to move for a new job, with benefits close behind as another consideration.


Employers Must Vie for Talent

Based on the current outlook of the labor market, and the fact that businesses are going to be competing for the same limited talent, employers must enhance and diversify their recruitment and retention solutions. Specifically, when developing strategies to attract and retain talent, businesses must consider:

  • For retention, work-life balance and schedule flexibility are valued most, but compensation definitely matters.
  • For recruitment, salary and benefits are the most important considerations in deciding to change jobs.
  • For relocation, significant increases in compensation would be required for those likely to consider relocating for a job.

Cynthia Davidson is director of research for ASA. Send feedback on this article to s******@americanstaffing.net. Follow ASA on Twitter @StaffingTweets and on Instagram @americanstaffingassociation.