The job market could heat up in September, according to a new survey

July 1, 2021, 9:30 PM UTC

Expect more workers to start job-hopping this autumn. The vast majority of job seekers say they aren’t urgently looking for a job now but will want a new job in the next three months, according to a survey released this week from Indeed, a search engine for job listings. 

That has created an urgent mismatch between employers and workers. Some employers have been scrambling to staff up quickly as COVID restrictions ease and the U.S. economy reopens. The number of urgent hiring posts on Indeed’s site jumped to 2.3% in June, up from 1.6% in January. Yet just 10% of the 5,000 survey respondents said they were urgently looking for a job, and about a third of all job seekers say they don’t want to start a job right away. 

Even with vaccines widely available, COVID fears were the top factor respondents said was holding them back from an urgent job search, followed by spousal earnings, household savings, care responsibilities, and unemployment insurance payments. Workers were also asked what might prod them to search more urgently for a job. The top answers were more job opportunities and increased vaccinations, followed by running out of savings or unemployment insurance, school starting in the fall, and the end of time off this summer.

Meanwhile, employers are still looking to fill an estimated 9 million U.S. jobs. Companies, especially those in sectors such as manufacturing, restaurants, and construction, are offering signing bonuses, salary bumps, and other flexible work options to retain and fill job openings. The number of companies offering signing bonuses jumped to 20% last month, up from 2% in March, according to surveys by ZipRecruiter, another job search engine.

Employers are offering more flexibility to retain and attract workers—and not just for office work. For example, at some companies, home health care workers can now do paperwork at home, and delivery drivers are getting more control over their schedules. “[Hiring] is an extremely difficult problem for employers to solve, and there is not one magic bullet,” said Julia Pollak, ZipRecruiter’s labor economist.

Changing just one of the factors at play—such as stopping all unemployment benefits—won’t be enough to dramatically shift the imbalance between employers and workers, said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economic: “Turning things back to normal will take time.”

All signs point to an increase of job seekers in the fall. Enhanced unemployment benefits will expire in September, and in-person classes will open at schools, alleviating a childcare challenge. Half of the U.S. states have already announced early expiration of those unemployment benefits. 

Even so, employers will continue to struggle with the preference for remote work when they need to fill jobs that are required to be on site or in the office, says Daco.  

The pandemic shifted how many employees view work. At least half of active job seekers interviewed by ZipRecruiter say they will eventually seek work in a different job or industry, especially those who previously held jobs in retail or hospitality. And 36% of them want jobs in which they can work remotely from home. People are taking this time to enjoy the summer and travel, and many are taking online courses or exploring new industries. Freelancing rates have hit a 10-year high, and new business applications are up. Said Pollak: “They have a surprising degree of leverage.”

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