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Finding Talent in PA is Hard – Why?

The U.S is currently at a 3.6% unemployment rate, but why does the labor market still feel tight, and what can your team do to weather the storm?

Finding talent in Pennsylvania is still harder than ever. In the U.S. we currently have a national unemployment rate of 3.6%. However, when we take a look at PA we are still on the slower end of recovery. PA currently sits at a 4.8% unemployment rate, which is the same as it was in January of 2020. But why is the talent pool so different from what it was at that time?

When you look at the labor force participation rate, and the employment to population ratio in PA, you will see that there is a 1.2% difference between the January 2020 numbers and the June 2022 numbers. This drop has held firm throughout the entire pandemic and has made negligible changes since. In January of 2020 our labor participation rate was 62.9%. We are currently sitting at 61.7% with fluctuation a few months ago to 61.9% but receding back again to the 61.7% mark.

What does this mean and why are our numbers still so low two years out? During the pandemic we saw unprecedented shifts in the market. We saw our older generations leaving the workforce which accounts for a small portion of our drop. Gen Z is not entering the labor market at the same pace as previous generations. The numbers of working people in the 45-54 age bracket are also significantly lower, and the millennial brackets are down but at a slightly lower margin than the aforementioned. This is all impacting the labor market, your candidate searches, and it’s driving wages higher as the competition for talent is more intense than ever.

What can you do to make sure you’re staying ahead of the curve, and are able to retain and attract new employees?

The first method would be the most obvious, and that would be to focus on retaining your key personnel – as you are able, increase total compensation of current employees, incorporate annual raises, and productivity incentives for employees to ensure they are motivated, and that you are driving merit-based rewards. That is not the easiest method to implement due to potential financial constraints of a company and the rising interest rates in the market.

The second method you could try is targeting the second most sought out benefit candidates are seeking and that is time. With the grace of technology, you can hit these solutions two ways. The first method would be the most cost effective for the business and the employee which would be remote options for working. Over 62% of all job seekers are looking for some type of remote work options. This is especially true of the younger generations who are currently the biggest missing piece in the market. By implementing remote work capabilities where able, you are saving your employees commuting time, and you are also reducing their gas costs which have risen almost 100% in the past year. By doing that you are giving your employee and candidate two of their most desired perks: additional time in reduced travel and more money by reducing their expenditures. This will also alleviate some stress your employees may be feeling in times of inflation, which would increase their overall productivity, and the feeling of good will towards the company by recognizing their needs.

There is a lot of apprehension from businesses switching to such methods because it could affect company “culture” or the perception that leading teams remotely is “ineffective”. That is, however, failing to recognize the generational gaps in the market. The Millennial and Z generations were brought up with technology closely incorporated in their life. These generations are used to forging bonds and relationships virtually their entire lives, whether it’s from the hours of gaming online or talking to people on social media; These generations have adapted and thrive by using technology to connect and work with people. It is up to businesses now to leverage this underestimated skill to bolster their workforce and improve employee attraction and retention.

The other method to attack this would be to increase the amount of time for PTO for your current employees and prospective new hires. Personal time is important to everyone; by increasing PTO you are giving your employees the ability to take the vacation they’ve been wanting to go on, giving them that random long weekend to recharge, or giving them an extra day to recoup from a stress filled week. By giving them this time, you are showing them that you care about them and want to prioritize their well-being.

The most important thing is recognizing your audience and speaking to their interests by putting yourselves in their shoes. In order to succeed in this labor market, businesses must put aside their “this is how it’s always been done” mantra and be open to new ideas to really stand out as an employer of choice. The businesses who are able to adapt will weather the storm with a strong and productive team, and the ones who refuse to adapt will face labor shortages and lower productivity.

I’d enjoy a conversation about what’s working in your company, what I’m hearing in the Central PA market and what ideas your curious about for the future. Reach out to me at 717-399-6474 or