11/03/2021 Jeni Kramer

Q3 jobs update: Insights from a seeker’s market

As 2021 continues its reign as both the longest and shortest seeming year in recorded history (was October 31 days, 31 minutes or 31 years? WHAT IS TIME?!) we somehow find ourselves at the end of the third quarter. As we look back on the previous three months, we see similar mixed messages. On the one hand, many of the usual indicators of positive job growth abound. However, in a year marred by ongoing COVID concerns, a broken supply chain and the Great Resignation, those rising job listings may not be the harbinger of economic growth they’ve typically come to signify. Let’s dive in, shall we?

For starters, active job listings were up 11.45% in the third quarter, adding yet another quarter to a long stretch of overall positive growth. This number does, however, represent a continuation of the downslide observed over the last couple of quarters, after we slipped from 16.5% growth in active job listings in Q1 to 15.5% growth in Q2. Last quarter we wondered if this trajectory was a sign that this tight labor market might be stabilizing. But as most employers feel acutely, demand for workers still vastly outweighs the available pool of talent. 

Further evidencing employers’ struggle to hire, job demand has increased in almost all occupations in Q3. The lone occupation with a decline in jobs in Q3 was Food Preparation and Serving, down 1.5%, even though we all know they are struggling. 

In fact, there’s no better snapshot of the Great Resignation in action than in service occupations. In the month of August alone, nearly 7% of employees in the Accommodations and Food Services Sector left their jobs. That is one in every 14 hotel clerks, restaurant servers and barbacks to bounce in a single month. 

As the industry continues to grapple with a dearth of available talent, some restaurants are turning to a new type of worker to fill the gaps. A Thai restaurant right here in our home city of Minneapolis is trying out a “serve assist robot” to carry food, clear dishes and help with takeout orders. Though “Dee Dee” is the first of its kind in Minnesota, restaurants in other cities have employed similar measures as a means of navigating the worker shortage. Excuse us while we Google “how much to tip a robot server?”

The occupation with the most growth in job listings in Q3 was Healthcare Support, up 19.7%. No surprise there, as news headlines continue to be dominated by stories of burnt out healthcare workers leaving the industry in droves. Though much has been made about vaccine mandates putting additional strain on this already stressed labor pool, relatively few workers have been ousted over their refusal to get the jab.  

And now for the geographic take. Drilling down to the state level, you can see that 76% of states saw job listings grow over 10%. The state that experienced the highest growth in active job listings was Tennessee with a 19% increase, while West Virginia, at the bottom of the list, still experienced 3% growth. Examining growth by Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), we see that 54% of MSAs decreased their job market diversification over the quarter. 

Overall, while active job listings are up you can see that we are dealing with a labor market still clearly showing stress due to the lingering effects of COVID. And the tumult shows no sign of letting up, with some experts predicting that, before it’s through, The Great Resignation could as much as half the country’s workers changing jobs. You know how that old saying goes, there’s nothing like a global pandemic to turn the system on its head. Stay tuned to see what the fourth quarter brings!