What Happened to All the Workers?

Employers continue to struggle with hiring. So where did all the workers go? The Wall Street Journal reports that over 500,000 became self-employed in 2021. Currently 9.44 million workers are registered as self-employed. That is the highest total since 2008 after the financial crisis.

Meanwhile, the US workforce remains 3% lower than before the pandemic. There are many reasons including mothers who left the workforce to look after children, 300,000 working-age adults who died of Covid or have long-term repercussions, hundreds of thousands who went onto Social Security at 62 and others who simply found ways to do with less.

Part of the shift to self-employment might be temporary. Employers looking to hire though need to create job postings to attract the self-employed. Key factors to highlight, if applicable, are:

  • Job security
  • Annual gross pay including any overtime
  • The annual dollar value of your benefit plans

Hiring Improves for Some

The Wall Street Journal recently reporting an uptick in hiring with almost 600,000 new people joining the US workforce in October.

  • 1 million more people were employed in November than in October.
  • The labor force participation rate rose to 61.8%, highest since March 2020 when the pandemic started.
  • The labor force participation rate for women, 25-54 years old, rose to 75.6%, the highest since the start of the pandemic. This could indicate that child-care issue may no longer be deterring women from working.

Another hopeful sign is that people are starting to look at new careers. Cindy Ortiz started a job as a CNA after she lost her job at a call center. She was retrained by Goodwill of Southern Nevada.

Older workers, those 55 and up, are still holding back. A little more than 40 percent of this demographic were in the labor force in February 2020, but only 38.4 percent are today. That figure is identical to the level last May, when the economy was largely shut down. Almost two years into the pandemic, they are still not coming back to work. Some over 62 have signed on to Social Security.

Using PTO Cash Outs to Help with the Holiday Season

The labor shortage, particularly for agencies managing group homes, shows no sign of abating. These are new and old remedies providers are using to fill and cover visits.

  • Allow staff to cash out their PTO and work extra shifts. This doesn’t cost anymore real money and helps provide extra hours of coverage. Many DSP’s welcome the extra money.
  • Encourage all qualified staff to apply for extra hours through your scheduling system. This helps share the overtime around, and may even reduce overtime if part time workers request the hours.
  • Communicate open shift opportunities to all staff automatically.
  • Pay staff 150% or 200% uplift when they work a holiday. Replace guaranteed holidays with extra PTO that has to be requested like other PTO days. This helps fill difficult to fill shifts.
  • Include overtime and holiday pay uplift in job postings. Amazon and Walmart don’t pay out much (if any) overtime, especially to new staff.
  • Create a DSP transition training program to encourage people from other industries who have been displaced, or are still at home, to see how they could quickly become a DSP.
  • Use pay differentials for difficult to fill shifts and visits. This avoids a long term commitment to base pay if and when extra funding is reduced or the labor market returns to normal.