Staffing Management

A look at the latest labor shortage statistics (and how to respond)

By JD Farrugia

Oct. 27, 2022

Summary

  • If all the unemployed people in the United States of America were to find a job right now, there would still be over 4 million jobs left to fill. — More

  • Labor force participation is 1% lower than pre-pandemic levels or about 2.9 million fewer workers. — More

  • Lower-paid industries — like wholesale and retail — have been most affected by the labor shortage crisis. — More

  • You can use a workforce management solution to make your organization more agile in times of worker shortages. It can be used for things like labor forecasting, scheduling, employee engagement, and cross-training. — More


Last year, an impressive 3.8 million new jobs were added to the American market as businesses started to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, labor force participation remains below pre-pandemic levels. There are nearly 3.4 million fewer American workers now than in February 2020 in an epoch that has been dubbed The Great Resignation

According to the latest information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the total number of nonfarm payroll employment increased last month by 263,000. The unemployment rate also decreased to 3.5% as 5.8 million workers were registered as being out of the labor market in September. 

When companies better understand the current statistics surrounding the labor market, they can adapt to stay afloat during the labor shortage. With workforce management tools like smarter scheduling and labor forecasting, companies can find smarter ways of working around short-staffing situations.

Here’s what the latest stats tell us about the labor shortage crisis

There’s a higher number of job openings than there are people in the job market

Even if all unemployed people in the United States were to find a job today, there would still be over 4 million jobs to fill. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce highlighted that there are currently 10 million unfilled jobs but only 5.8 million people unemployed. 

By comparison, in February 2020, there were also 5.8 million unemployed workers and 6.9 million job openings. 

Labor force participation is lower than pre-pandemic levels

Currently, labor participation in the United States is at 62.3%, which is 1% lower than it was in February 2020. Labor force participation refers to anyone who is currently working or actively looking for work. The 1% decrease in participation rate amounts to 2.9 million fewer workers contributing to the US economy. 

According to research by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, there are different reasons for this drop in participation:

  1. More women are staying home to take care of dependents.
  2. There’s a lack of “good jobs.”
  3. There are remaining safety concerns linked with COVID-19.
  4. Salaries are considered to be too low. 
  5. People are focusing on acquiring new skills or education before re-entering the job market.
  6. People have more money saved since the pandemic and can afford to stay out of work a bit longer.
  7. The pandemic drove a lot of people into early retirement – over 3 million older workers as of October 2021.
  8. More people have started their own businesses. In 2021, a record high 5.4 million new businesses were opened. 

The labor shortage has affected different industries differently

Lower-paid industries have historically been most affected by the labor shortage crisis. The most affected industries are wholesale and retail trade, durable goods and manufacturing, and leisure and hospitality. 

According to the September 2022 BLS employment situation:

  • The leisure and hospitality sector added 83,000 jobs. Employment rose in food services and drinking places by 60,000. The sector is still experiencing a labor supply below pre-pandemic levels by 1.1 million or 6.7%.
  • The healthcare industry welcomed 60,000 new workers last month, finally returning to its pre-pandemic level last seen in February 2020.
  • Professional and business services are experiencing an upward trend in hiring rates. The sector currently has an average job growth of 72,000 per month this year.
  • Other industries experiencing upward trends include manufacturing (22,000), construction (19,000), and wholesale trade (11,000).

How to stay ahead during a labor shortage

There are many ways to utilize workforce and scheduling software to make your operations run smoothly during a labor shortage. 

1. Utilize labor forecasting

Labor forecasting helps you estimate consumer demand, allowing you to schedule shifts to match it. With demand-based scheduling, you avoid under or overstaffing. Your employees are also less likely to burn out and, ultimately, quit. 

Luckily there is an easy way for businesses to schedule like this. 

Labor forecasting software allows you to look at historical sales, foot traffic, weather, and economic trends to better determine the amount of labor you’ll need to schedule to meet upcoming demand. This leads to smarter scheduling, such as utilizing your most experienced employees during busier periods for increased efficiency. 

2. Stay ahead of your scheduling

Scheduling your shifts in advance allows you to be more agile and adaptable. It gives your employees enough time to review and make any changes needed without causing any major, last-minute disruptions. In turn, they have a better work-life balance and can fully focus on the job when they’re on the clock.

Employee scheduling software centralizes scheduling and provides standardized methods for shift swaps and replacements, increasing administrative efficiency and staff agility. It also helps you manage time off requests in a way that ensures you have enough employees to cover demand. 

Workforce.com’s scheduling software also incorporates breaks into work schedules. This way, you make sure your staff is taking the breaks they need to remain engaged and productive. Breaks are also automatically included to remain legally compliant with federal and state laws.  

Webinar: How to Schedule While Understaffed

3. Keep your employees engaged 

Happy and engaged employees are less likely to leave. Use communication and feedback tools to boost engagement, retention rates, and healthy production levels. 

Communication tools allow for quicker and more transparent updates and make it easier to share important company announcements. This way, employees feel valued, and it helps to bridge the gap between them and management. 

Feedback is an essential part of making your employees feel more appreciated. You can use shift feedback tools to cover various aspects of shift performance. Shift feedback tools work both ways – employees receive valuable feedback from management, but they are also able to provide feedback on things like staffing-level issues. 

Webinar: How to Retain Hourly Employees

4. Cross-train your staff

Cross-training ensures that your employees can deal better with short-staffing challenges. Your staff can handle a wider range of tasks and are therefore more adaptable. By encouraging your staff to mentor and train each other, you also create more cohesion across the company. 

To start, create a list of all your team members and the skillsets they currently have. From there, build a cross-training program that incentivizes staff members to learn from each other and progress as individuals. 

Employees who are cross-trained can fill in for each other during times of short-staffing and emergencies. 

See how Workforce.com can help you adapt to labor shortages

Workforce.com can better equip your organization to deal with the ongoing country-wide labor shortages. Features like labor forecasting, smart employee scheduling, and shift feedback tools will not only help you handle short-staffing situations but will also improve your operations long term.

To learn more about how Workforce.com can help you stay ahead during labor shortages, schedule a call or start a free trial today

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