The 2021 Recruiting Landscape: Businesses Facing Challenges as Economy Slowly Recovers

The 2021 Recruiting Landscape: Businesses Facing Challenges as Economy Slowly Recovers

Amber Griffin

As the economy slowly recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are looking for workers and people are returning to work. We saw unprecedented levels of unemployment as the pandemic shut down large swaths of the economy back in March 2020. While some could work from home, others were furloughed or laid off entirely. Some continued to work in frontline positions that took on new levels of risk overnight.

The pandemic was a hugely disruptive force in the labor market. Throughout it all, the demand for frontline labor has increased to support the changing landscape of retail order fulfillment, supply chain logistics, third party logistics, and cleaning and sanitation staff. But businesses also continued with furloughs and layoffs as they fought to stay afloat. 

As we approach summer 2021, things are looking up around the country. Vaccines have made it possible for many parts of the economy to reopen, and unemployment rates have slowly decreased. As businesses prepare to return to in-person work, many people are focused on finding new opportunities. 

Whether they lost their job, or found that the job they had wasn’t meeting their needs, many people have been looking for work, and the turnover rate for frontline labor jobs is at an all-time high

The labor force participation rate 

The civilian labor force participation rate (LFPR) is the percentage of the total population looking for work or working. The LFPR is an important tool for businesses because it can provide insight into the number of people who are participating or trying to participate in the labor force. Such participation rates can have a big impact on hiring and recruiting. 

The LFPR in the U.S. held steady in the early 2000s, but has declined gradually since the 2008 recession. However, the LFPR never recovered to pre-recession levels in the following decade. It declined even further in February 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and has not returned to the pre-pandemic level as of March 2021. 

The slow recovery leads to many questions for businesses to consider as they look for workers in 2021. Will those who lost their jobs begin to look for work again as more sectors of the economy reopen? What types of work are they looking for?  What challenges and concerns do they have as they prepare to return to the labor force? What are businesses doing to attract the workers they need? What tools should they use to find frontline labor? 

Top issues in finding talent  

The following are some of the top issues facing businesses as they think about finding workers in 2021. Some have been issues for a long time, such as attracting talent, while others have arisen since the start of the pandemic, like implementing new workplace safety measures. Either way, these will all be issues for businesses to keep in mind as they  try to find workers in 2021 and beyond.

Attracting frontline workers

Attracting talent is always something that comes up when businesses think about hiring and recruiting. But it is even more important in a crowded hiring market, which the U.S. may experience as many parts of the economy reopen and businesses look for workers to fulfill post-pandemic demand. 

It can be hard for businesses to find and attract talent without the right practices.  Among other things, businesses can try to optimize their job postings, find new sources for frontline labor, or use marketplace tools like Wonolo that connect them to experienced workers without resumes and interviews. It is important for businesses to approach these issues from multiple angles so they can attract the talent they want.

Dealing with a high volume of prospective workers 

In February 2020, the unemployment rate stood at 3.5%, but by April 2020 it had spiked to almost 15%. Although it has come back down to 6.0% as of March 2021, it is still 2.5% higher than the pre-pandemic level. High levels of unemployment can lead to a high volume of workers seeking new opportunities, as the economy reopens and the demand for workers increases. 

Businesses dealing with a high volume of prospective workers often rely on automated systems to filter through resumes, but these systems should be used with care. When used well, they can save time and eliminate unqualified candidates, but in other cases they can perpetuate biases and exclude qualified candidates whose resumes don’t fit exactly with the given parameters. This can harm efforts to recruit and hire a diverse workforce. 

When it comes to on-demand and short-term needs, many businesses are leveraging new marketplace tools like Wonolo to connect with experienced workers, removing the need for resume review and interviews for frontline workers. By leveraging this technology, they can not only save time but also find high quality workers that are the right fit for their needs.

Making sure workers feel safe to come to work 

While workplace safety has always been an important part of creating a great workplace, now it is top of mind for many workers. Especially as more sectors reopen and people return to in-person work, workers will be looking to make sure that businesses have clear procedures and practices in place for health and safety. 

There are many measures businesses can use to help foster a welcoming, healthy, and safe work environment. Some of the measures that Wonolo has taken to promote health and safety in the community include implementing health status surveys and providing financial assistance to workers who have to self-isolate because of the pandemic. 

Another approach that a number of Wonolo customers have taken is engaging Wonoloers to act as Safety Associates. Safety Associates can check workers’ temperatures, implement social distancing and act as an onsite health monitor. 

No matter what health & safety procedures you have in place, you can help workers understand your company’s commitment to health and safety by including the practices in your job posting and by leveraging social media. Posts that show safety measures in your workplace can help attract new workers. Some ideas for social posts include video walkthroughs of the work environment or quick interviews with current workers to explain safety measures. 

The recruiting landscape continues to evolve

While the pandemic brought new recruiting challenges with it, it also highlighted challenges that many businesses have been facing for a long time. As the recruiting and hiring landscape continues to evolve, it will be important to keep an eye on data like unemployment rates and labor workforce participation to continue to understand the trends and challenges businesses may face in the future. Teams that are early adopters of new solutions will find themselves poised to successfully navigate the evolving recruiting landscape, no matter the economic factors. 

Regardless of what comes over the next three, six or twelve months, businesses should leverage every tool at their disposal to streamline their staffing processes and reduce the administrative burden of finding frontline workers

For more information, please contact Farah Qutub at

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