10/21/2021 Jeni Kramer

Job Market Insights: October 2021

Fall is a mixed bag

Though job listings are still increasing—active job listings were up 2.7% last month, that’s an increase from August’s 0.6% rise—the news isn’t all sunshine and pumpkin spice. Typically rising job numbers are a solid indicator of growth, but in this market they more likely point to employers’ ongoing struggles to find and keep the help they need. Businesses and organizations across industries and occupations are desperate to find workers, and workers continue to send strong signals that winning them over will not be easy.

Shifting workforce

There’s no shortage of speculation as to why it seems job seekers are suddenly holding all the cards, but what’s really behind this shift in dynamic in the current workforce? In August, the number of people quitting their jobs surged to record highs with 4.3 million people turning in their resignations. That’s equal to about 2.9% of the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and it surpasses the previous record set in April. 

What workers want

For some, the decision to resign is a power move, stemming from the knowledge that a better opportunity is out there. With the massive amount of open listings, job seekers have increased confidence to depart jobs with inconvenient hours or poor compensation with the knowledge they can likely find something that better fits their priorities. For workers considering striking out on their own, the current climate and wide range of online platforms and marketplaces has made going independent easier than ever.

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For others, the decision is far more complicated; the pandemic may have pushed them to make a drastic move, often out of the workforce altogether. Trouble finding affordable childcare options and trepidation about COVID are forcing some workers to make difficult choices.


Other employees are taking stock of these unfit options and demanding better. Enter Striketober. After more than a year and a half of putting their health and safety on the line, some front line workers have put their foot down. Demands range from increased wages, shorter hours, meal and rest breaks to better benefits, and industries from health care to Hollywood are leading the charge. This month finds nearly 100,000 U.S. workers striking or preparing to strike to improve working conditions.

Supply chain chaos

As employees make bold moves toward securing more flexibility, work-life balance, better childcare options, safer conditions and more supportive work environments overall, there is  potential trouble brewing for an already stressed global supply chain. In addition to product shortages, a lack of truck drivers is causing major delays at key U.S. ports.

The holiday season will be a test of what we’re willing to give up in pursuit of striking this new balance. The Biden Administration is hoping to work with the ports as well as retailers to address some of the challenges, but experts say it is unlikely to drive large enough change to fix the issue in time for the upcoming season. Big retailers are trimming holiday hiring goals amid ongoing labor challenges.

Looking to the future

Despite the current tumult, the labor market is not without promise. Future focused companies and sectors are already building the workforce of tomorrow, and there is no shortage of exciting developments in progress:

  • Looking at Ford’s jobs, we see that temporary closures and shortages don’t appear to have stalled their hiring trajectory. Active job listings have increased 221% in 2021 as they ramp up production capacity for EV efforts like the electric version of their popular F-150.
  • An incoming influx of federal infrastructure spending means an uptick in new infrastructure jobs. Look at this new report by the National League of Cities evaluates how we can prepare for these new roles.

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