National staffing employment reached its highest peak in 10 months last month with at least 48% of staffing companies in the American Staffing Association reporting an increase in assignments each week.
According to the ASA’s latest survey, new starts have increased by 8% on average each week for the ninth consecutive week across the country.
Julie Godshall Brown, president of Godshall Recruiting, said businesses have been hesitant to hire during an election year in the past. And to say the front half of 2020 brought additional uncertainty would be an understatement.
But now that businesses have a somewhat clearer image of what’s ahead, they have opened the floodgates of new hires. This movement started in the summer and only intensified during the autumn for both temporary and full-time positions.
“We do feel that a lot of our local businesses, particularly in Greenville and the Upstate, are at this point moving forward with hiring plans,” she said.
Career needs linked to the nonwoven manufacturing sector and manufacturing as a whole have mushroomed, but calls for professional services have also remained relatively steady at Godshall Recruiting. Overall, high demand careers pre-COVID, such as engineering, IT, accounting and administrative positions, still remain high demand careers.
“The professional service sector has not missed much of a beat so a lot of the roles that any business would have, like accounting or finance, administrative, customer service — those have stayed strong,” she said.
Health care needs have also climbed since hospitals and private practices returned to offering elective surgeries, while Carlie Boese, branch manager and vice president for Greenville’s Robert Half Branch has has witnessed a flurry of requests for high-talent database administrators, cloud security analysts and network engineers. Under the accounting umbrella, she said that companies are on the hunt for payroll managers, auditors and senior accountants.
“While unemployment hit a record high in April due to the pandemic, our research shows companies may now be ramping up their hiring efforts,” Boese said in an email. “Despite the pandemic, many companies are moving forward with business — including hiring for essential roles. In some cases, COVID-19 is even creating increased demand for experienced professionals – a good example is in tech with an increasingly remote and digital workforce.
Still, even with enhanced demand in some professional sectors, representatives from both Godshall Recruiting and Hire Dynamic’s Upstate offices report that COVID-19 has broadened the already widening gap between the skill sets companies need and the skill sets candidates bring to the table.
“It’s still a war for talent,” said Laura Moody, regional director of Hire Dynamics' Upstate offices.
Fewer individuals are staying in the workforce post-COVID-19, she said, further whittling down an already limited pool of job candidates for certain specialized industries.
Especially as more women choose to stay home to care for elderly family or children learning from home. In September alone, 1.1 million workers over the age of 20 dropped out of the workforce entirely — in other words, they are not working or looking for work — with women making up 80% of that number, according to the National Women’s Law Center’s interpretation of a Bureau of Labor Statistics report.
“We’ve always been really creative with our recruiting because we know that’s how you get ahead, but we’re having to be really creative with our recruiting,” she said, adding that she is a little nervous about what hiring prospects look like as the pandemic continues throughout the winter.
Despite skyrocketing unemployment this year, Moody said that it has been much harder in 2020 to find candidates willing and able to fill the posts her clients need across all sectors, including office support. The higher the skill set requirements of a position, the more difficult it is to fill.
“Wages tend to be going up even though the skill set is not, just to be able to get people in,” she said.
E-commerce staffing needs tend to spike near the holidays anyway, but this year, as more customers opt for online shopping sprees instead of department store runs, Moody said the e-commerce sector has been scrambling for employees. There has been more demand than usual for office support candidates, and companies in search of white-collar and leadership positions via Hire Dynamics have also reached an all-time high.
“We have a had a lot more direct-hire professional calls,” she said, ranging from plant manager to accountant positions.
In the past, they didn’t have to call to fill these shoes.
“Now, they’re calling us.”
This story originally appeared in the Dec. 14, 2020, print edition of the GSA Business Report