The Post-Pandemic Workforce: Where Are All the People?

News and insights for job seekers and hiring managers.

The Post-Pandemic Workforce: Where Are All the People?

Now that the most restrictive aspects of the pandemic are behind us, many employers are wondering why they’re still struggling to find candidates. For many companies, the hiring situation is surprisingly bleak and while COVID-19 shook things up, most assumed that they’d have access to more talent by now.

The issue isn’t the state of the pandemic. Instead, it’s that a slew of professionals exited the workforce in droves during COVID-19, and a surprising number don’t plan on returning. As a result, a somewhat challenging hiring landscape has evolved into an incredibly difficult situation.

If you’re wondering who left the workforce, why they exited, and what it means for your company, here’s what you need to know.

Who Are the Millions That Left the Workforce?

While people from all walks of life left the workforce in recent years, certain segments saw far more activity due to the pandemic. One portion of the labor force that left in droves was the near-retirees. Many older workers who were planning on exiting the workforce in the near future decided to leave early during the pandemic. In some cases, it was because they were laid off and didn’t feel like going through the effort to find a new position for just a year or two. In others, health concerns, family needs, or similar factors made leaving closer to a necessity.

Another group that left the workforce during the pandemic and hasn’t fully returned are those with caregiver needs in their households. For example, many parents had to leave positions when schools and daycares closed, allowing them to watch over their children. While a significant number later went back to work, others chose to stay out indefinitely.

The latter was especially common among individuals with virus-related fears or persistent health conditions. For them, the risks related to COVID-19 may simply be too high. As a result, they chose to leave the workforce instead of putting themselves in potential danger.

What This Mass Exodus Means for Employers

The mass exodus will hinder recruitment and hiring for employers in several ways. First, the early exit of some retirees means critical experience left the labor force far earlier than expected. This will create challenges when filling roles that require specific skills typically learned over time, as well as make pervasive skill gaps harder to address.

Second, the workforce simply isn’t large enough to handle demand. That means those who are in the labor force have choices about their employers. If a company doesn’t measure up, employees will head for the door in search of greener pastures far faster than you’d expect.

Since that’s the case, companies need to develop a strong employer value proposition. While in years past, it was all about what candidates could do for you, that’s no longer true today. The faster employers realize that they need to bring something compelling to the table, the easier time they’ll have navigating this new landscape.

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