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Hiring Happens – Even in a Recession

April 3, 2020
iCIMS Staff
3 min read

The news headlines may be grim today, but it’s important not to let the numbers scare us. If our multiplying economic and health crises are teaching us anything (aside from the importance of washing our hands), it is the importance of big-picture, long-sighted thinking about solutions. That is why, even though we just learned that the U.S. economy shed over 700,000 jobs in the last month and 10 million people filed unemployment insurance claims in the last two weeks, it’s important to think about hiring.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

Eventually there will be an end to the announcements of job losses and furloughs, and employers need to think ahead about the world that awaits us on the other side. In fact, many of them already are. At iCIMS, while we have seen overall hiring activity decline, we have seen some pockets of continued growth in manufacturing and business services, as well as certain metropolitan areas such as Philadelphia and Phoenix. Even in surprising places like Seattle or the retail industry, there was still some growth.

We are also hearing reports of large retailers and hospitality providers being concerned that their employees won’t want to return once their stores and hotels reopen. Whether that’s because of hard feelings or fear of exposure to the coronavirus, their employers are preparing for a record number of backfills and often getting creative with their attempts to avoid layoffs.

Among iCIMS customers, outright hiring continues amid the many new demands of the coronavirus pandemic. That includes ecommerce giant Amazon, grocers like Festival Foods/Skogen’s Foodliner, as well as hospitals like Mount Sinai and telecom providers like Comcast. Rite Aid is making a special effort to welcome workers laid off elsewhere, as is 7-Eleven, whose delivery service has seen a spike in demand. Domino’s Pizza is also racing to meet the surge in demand for its delivery service.

Matchmaking Means Playing the Long Game

The companies above are wise to pursue these strategies. The economic literature – not to mention most people’s life experiences – makes it clear that making good matches in the labor market is a difficult, time-consuming process. Elementary marketing and psychology suggest that workers will remember which firms and industries provide job security. There are still reasons to hope for some kind of bounce back in the second half of this year, even if not as much of one as we once hoped, and workers’ memories won’t be short enough to forget the first half. Even those employees who do want to return may find their life circumstances changed by the time the rehiring wave comes for them, so it pays for an employer to maintain some kind of relationship – even if only via marketing campaigns to passive candidate pools.

That’s before factoring in the competitive aspects. Keep in mind: even in the depths of the Great Recession, when layoffs and unemployment spiked, hiring never went to zero. As the chart above demonstrates, there were still millions of hires and new job openings every month, and hires did not drop as much as openings. Already, there are widespread reports of manufacturers retooling operations to meet the new demand for masks, ventilators, and hand sanitizer, and there’s huge demand for front-line workers in health care, warehousing, and delivery.

We are close to maximum uncertainty about the turnaround – a lot depends on how the next few weeks go with executing the policies of the U.S. Treasury and the Fed, as well as with the virus spread itself. Still, it’s encouraging to see signs of recovery underway in China and South Korea. Are those economies and societies the same as ours? Not by a long shot. But they prove a point that’s easy to overlook when we are at the height of reorganizing what seems like every aspect of our personal and professional lives: somehow, some day, this crisis is going pass, and the future belongs to those who plan for that day.

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