A Severe Shortage of Hourly Workers Post COVID-19

Vector-style image of an office desk with a sign that reads "vacancy"

COVID-19 has changed the employment landscape in ways that no one could have anticipated. Businesses of all types and sizes have faced unprecedented challenges and have had to creatively adapt simply to stay afloat. The shortage of workers we saw prior to the pandemic has come roaring back during the recovery. This is partially due to structural challenges in the US workforce (lower birth rates, limited immigration, and increasing skill requirements), but has also been exacerbated by COVID-specific employment factors. As companies reopen to full operations, many are seeing a desperate shortage of hourly workers and women available to return to the workforce.

Why? After a year and a half of many businesses operating in survival mode, a couple of factors stand out:


Working women are facing a perfect storm. Female-dominated industries like nursing, education, childcare, and hospitality were heavily impacted by both the virus and the corresponding lockdowns. Many of these positions face a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and are unable to accommodate telecommuting. Women whose jobs were unaffected by layoffs and furloughs found themselves struggling to work from home while managing homeschooling, virtual learning, and irregular school schedules – challenges intensified by lack of available and cost-prohibitive child care.

Hourly Workers

Hourly workers, on average, have lower overall compensation levels than salaried workers. Extended shutdowns of hospitality and dining businesses have caused this workforce to reevaluate their options. Conversely, the explosion of supply chain and warehouse businesses associated with the growth of online retailing has created new employment options for workers – options that usually include more standard work hours, higher pay, and benefits unavailable in other industries. This shift has caused workers across the board to reevaluate their career priorities.

Additionally, extended unemployment benefits for all types of positions have made it possible for hourly workers, especially, to make more from unemployment than from working their regular hours. While many Americans want to work, this unique situation can be de-incentivizing.

So What’s Next?

A couple of trends will probably become more prominent and accelerate:

1. In response to the lack of available workers, any work that can be automated, streamlined or consolidated will be. Artificial intelligence, customer self-service, and robotics will be increasingly leveraged to reduce the requirements of a human workforce.

2. Wages will increase. Competition is increasing for skilled workers. Companies will look for every possible way to attract top talent that is not wage-based by providing additional perks, benefits, and other creative incentives. However, additional compensation is (usually) the ultimate determining factor for a candidate choosing between leaving a well-paying job in a comfortable work environment and moving to your company’s open position.

Finding skilled workers to fill your open positions is what Pivotal does every day. Our recruiters specialize in cold-calling currently employed, highly qualified prospects and encouraging them to explore your open opportunities. Contact us to find out more.