Just how difficult is it to find the workers you need?

The short answer is really difficult. The long answer involves a bunch of data and quotes, which we’ll cover in this article.


A strong economy creates an ironic problem: a weak labor market.

America’s economy has been on a long, uphill road since the infamous 2008-09 recession. Now, roughly a decade later, we’re near the top of that hill. Good news, right? Well, it’s mostly good news. That’s because it comes with a bit of bad news, too: Today, there are far less people looking for work, making it difficult to hire enough qualified temporary and permanent workers. Here are some points to illustrate this roadblock.

A Strong Economy

  • Since 2009, the gross domestic product (GDP) has grown between 2-3% almost every year, and today, it’s roughly $21 trillion—an all-time record.
  • The consumer sentiment level has been consistently and relatively high for the last four years—as high as it’s been since the year 2000.

A Weak Labor Market

  • With companies hiring and investing in their workforces, the ratio of unemployed people to job openings has gone from 6:1 a decade ago to less than 1:1 today.
  • The labor force participation rate is holding steady at 63%, but was 66% in 2007-08, a difference of several million workers.

There’s also one data point that speaks to both a strong economy and a weak labor market: the near record-low unemployment rate.

  • In 2009, it was 9.9%, the highest it had been since 1982; Currently, it’s a remarkably low 3.5% (and as low as 2% for professional positions).

As the data shows, when the economy is running on all cylinders (and companies are ramping up hiring and production), a tipping point is reached when talent becomes exceptionally scarce—and today, we’ve officially reached that tipping point. This is especially true for temporary workers as we enter peak holiday season.

No business is immune to this problem; hear what they have to say.

While the aforementioned data sheds some bright light on this topic, it’s always reassuring to hear from professionals like you and companies similar to yours. Here are some numbers and quotes that further express the magnitude of this problem.

  • 67% of recruiters say it’s more difficult than ever to find candidates. (Inc.)
  • “One of our biggest challenges is getting through to potential job candidates when sometimes hundreds of other recruiters are reaching out to them at the same time. The techniques that worked 10 or even 5 years ago just aren’t effective anymore. Candidates know they have choices, so it takes a lot of effort to really stand out.” (LADDERS) —Harrison Doan, Director of Analytics at Saatva
  • “Business’ number one problem is finding qualified workers. At the current pace of job growth, if sustained, this problem is set to get much worse. These labor shortages will only intensify across all industries and company sizes.” (CNBC) —Mark Zandi, Chief Economist at Moody’s Analytics

What can you do to overcome this problem and find and retain workers?

While there’s no silver bullet, there are several measures you can take to hire workers and keep them on board long-term, or at least for the duration of their assignments. These can apply to any type and level of job candidate in any industry, but we have found them especially effective when recruiting temporary workers in customer service, industrial and manufacturing, office administration, and warehousing.

  • Looser Job Requirements – Reducing overly stringent job requirements around education, experience, and even criminal records results in companies accessing more job candidates, making faster hires, and achieving higher productivity.
  • Better Pay – In almost every survey conducted around worker satisfaction, pay is the top factor. And in today’s candidate-driven market, where they have leverage to earn more pay, you must at least be competitive in your market. For hourly employees, there’s a major pay-to-turnover correlation.
  • Positive Cultures – By positive cultures, we mean promoting work-life balance, providing innovative workspaces, and generally making work a pleasant place to be. For temps specifically, scheduling flexibility is paramount, as they’re often working temporary jobs to earn extra money on top of another job with less flexibility.

You should also focus on detecting and preventing “ghosting.”

This could have been a bullet point above but it’s such a hot topic that we feel it needs its own section. By now, you likely know about ghosting, a term borrowed from the dating world. It’s when candidates don’t show up for an interview or new employees don’t show up for their first day, and you never hear from them again. The problem is obvious: You’re left to find yet another candidate, which is not only frustrating, but expensive from talent acquisition and operations standpoints.

As far as detecting when ghosting might burn you, you should first know that it’s more common today than ever because candidates often hold multiple job offers. The telltale sign that ghosting might occur is poor communication throughout the interview process. If an applicant is late to reply to emails or voicemails and/or late to show up for interviews or drug screenings or even their first day, beware. It may behoove you and your staffing partner to start building a pipeline of potential replacements. Yes, doing so costs time and money, but far less than it would cost if you’re ghosted and left scrambling.

As far as preventing ghosting altogether, it largely comes down to the quality of your job offer and your interviewing and onboarding experiences.

  • By offering competitive, or more-than-competitive, pay for your industry and locale, you’re automatically enhancing the quality and quantity of your applicants, increasing your chances of selecting candidates less prone to ghosting.
  • By offering progressive, pay-related benefits such as DailyPay, in which workers can earn instant access to their earned wages. Knowing that they have this income flexibility can improve attendance and differentiate you from competing employers. This is especially impactful to temporary workers.
  • By reaching out during the interview process, even if there’s no interview to schedule or information to gather, you can gauge someone’s responsiveness (and likelihood of ghosting). For instance, a simple message such as, “How are you? Do you have any questions at this point? We look forward to seeing you soon.”
  • By communicating thoroughly and transparently during the interview process, ensuring you effectively outline expectations around job duties, scheduling, etc. and work to gain the respect of the candidate. This is critical because unmet expectations and lack of respect are two of the most common reasons for new hire ghosting.

Stay the course.

Today, and for the foreseeable future, companies and staffing agencies across industries and locations have an arduous road ahead. It can be safely navigated, but only if you follow specific directions and aren’t afraid to take the detours they demand. In the end, after some patience and perseverance, you’ll reach your destination and find the workforce you need.

For much more on recruiting, hiring, and retaining talent, visit our helpful resources section.

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