Four Reasons You Aren’t Seeing Applicants for Your Cleaning and Security Jobs

We’re 18 months past the onset of the pandemic and you probably have open positions across your company that you can’t fill. So where did the applicants go?

The most recent report from the U.S. Department of Labor showed that August payroll growth was down. Monthly job growth in 2021 has averaged 586,000 new jobs per month, but August topped out at 235,000. With so many businesses across various industries — including the cleaning and security industries — trying to hire additional workers, why is job growth declining? The same report shows a decline in the number of unemployed people who actively looked for jobs in the previous four weeks. It seems people have simply stopped looking for jobs. Because of the relatively short sample time of the pandemic, it’s tough to pinpoint exactly what’s happening. But there is a mix of theories as to why. Please note that this data changes over time and what is true at the beginning of September may not be true later in the fall.

1. Unemployment benefits

There’s a lot of conjecture around the impact the extra federal benefits had on employment searches. The common belief has been: what’s the incentive for people to go out and search for new jobs when they can make more money collecting standard unemployment plus the additional $300 weekly federal benefit than they can working? In theory, this argument makes sense and explains where the people who previously filled your hourly jobs have gone. But currently available data doesn’t back up that theory.

Federal unemployment funds for all states ended September 6, but 26 states withdrew from the funding early (between May and July). Two separate analyses by time-management and payroll services companies found that hourly-worker shifts in those states grew at about half the rate as states that continued to offer the full benefit. That’s the opposite of what everyone expected would happen.

2. Lack of childcare

The next assumption might be that parents are still seeing a lack of childcare compared to what they had pre-pandemic. Most kids are back in school for in-person classes, but it’s still hard to predict what might happen month to month, especially since COVID cases among children are on the rise. The reality is that childcare still remains a huge variable for single-parent and two-working-parent households.

According to a poll from earlier this summer, one third of respondents said they wouldn’t start looking for a job in the next month, and a large portion said they were waiting for schools to reopen. Among those who are unemployed and not actively looking for work, one-fifth cited childcare as a major reason why — those without college degrees were more likely to fall into that group. Now that we’re past the Labor Day mark, parents are still uncertain what the immediate future may hold for their school-going children, especially those under 12 who are not currently eligible for vaccinations.

3. Career Change

Over the course of COVID and the various stages of lockdown, people generally became introspective and looked at their careers as a whole. Simply put, a lot of the labor force doesn’t want to do what they did before. A Washington Post poll found that nearly one-third of S. workers under the age of 40 have thought about changing their occupation or field of work since the beginning of the pandemic. A Pew Research Center survey also found that 66% of unemployed workers had “seriously considered” changing their field of work. These trends hit workers in the leisure and hospitality industries (which overlaps cleaning and security) hard.

4. Fear of front-line work or COVID exposure

Fear still exists for frontline workers. As we enter into another phase of climbing COVID curves and delta’s community spread, unemployed individuals are still uncertain about the safety of returning to work. And the frontline and hourly workers who are on the job are reporting high levels of burnout. There has also been a wave of workers over 50 choosing to retire early rather than return to stressful, high-risk jobs.

For the full picture of labor trends across the cleaning and security industries, including a mini case study of the effect unemployment benefits have on job applications according to hiring data collected from our clients, watch our on-demand Labor Trends Webinar.