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Your Hiring Pulse report for May 2022

In April’s Hiring Pulse, we doubled down on the importance of a standardized hiring process and supplemented that with a deep dive into how four different sectors had experienced the pandemic.

Hiring Pulse

This month, we’d like to keep this short and succinct, with the takeaway that times are ever-changing and we need to be like water – in other words, shape-shifting, adapting, etc. – to remain relevant, to paraphrase Bruce Lee’s famous quote.

Yes, this applies to businesses as well. Let’s get on with it.

How we’re looking at data

First – and we explain this every month to be sure that it’s understood – looking at data gives us an opportunity to look at benchmarks in the hiring landscape. But when the benchmark regularly changes during this ‘Never Normal’ time, it becomes an unreliable gauge.

So, it’s no longer helpful to look at the data YoY or even MoM. Rolling trends make more sense because then you’re comparing data with what’s happening in recent months. Consequently, for the Hiring Pulse, we are looking at percentage increase or decrease compared with the rolling average of the three trailing months. Jump to the end for a more detailed methodology on this.

As always, we look at the worldwide trends for three common SMB hiring metrics:

  1. Time to Fill (TTF)
  2. Total Job Openings
  3. Candidates per Hire (CPH)

Let’s start analyzing!

Don’t miss the pulse

This is part of a series of monthly hiring trend reports for SMBs that go out on the first Tuesday of every month. Sign up for our newsletter for regular updates!

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Table of Contents:

Main highlights

The three main highlights for this month’s Hiring Pulse are:

  • Q1 was busy, very busy – and that’s to be expected
  • April shows a much sharper drop in job openings than previous Aprils
  • The candidates per hire trend isn’t dropping as sharply as before

1. Time to Fill

For this report, Workable defines “Time to Fill” as the number of days from when a new job is opened to when that job opening is filled. It’s important to understand that definition: if a job is opened in October or even as early as April last year, but isn’t filled until April, it won’t count in this graph. If another job is opened on the same day in July or September but is filled on March 31, it does count in this graph.

So, we’re looking at the TTF trends only up to the end of March. Got that? Good. Now that we have the full data for Q1 2022, let’s have a look:

And then let’s compare that to what the data looks like for Q4 2021. It’s worth pointing out that December 2021 self-adjusted from -5.2% last month to -0.8% this month, which means jobs got filled en masse in March to push that TTF metric a little higher for December this time around. Also worth noting is how November 2021 also changed sharply – from 1.8% last month to a much higher 7% this month.

That’s two months of significant recalibrations towards the end of the year – indicating that TTF is actually growing as jobs opened in November and December get filled and we get a more complete picture of those latter months of 2021.

What else is happening? To gain perspective, let’s first look at last month’s Hiring Pulse report: in that report, the TTF trend for December 2021, January 2022 and February 2022 (the last three months being analyzed) were -5.2%, -22.8%, and -29.2% respectively. But this time, the last three months (the Q1 2022 months) trended at -16.6%, -19.2%, and -27.4%.

Now let’s look at another huge difference between the reports for last month and this month – the trend of the third-most recent month being analyzed here. In April’s Hiring Pulse, the third-most recent month is December 2021, which shows a -5.2% TTF trend.

This month, the third-most recent month is January 2022, which shows a -16.6% TTF trend.

That’s -5.2% versus -16.6%. Pretty huge difference.

This means that jobs opened in that third-most recent month are more likely to be filled well before the end of the most recent month now compared with last month. Why? Because the absolute maximum TTF possible for a job opened in the third-most recent month would be roughly 90 days (or three months).

Concurrently, jobs opened in December 2021 were likely being filled towards the end of February in last month’s report, whereas jobs opened in January 2022 were more likely being filled well before the end of March in this month’s report.

It’s a clear indication that jobs were getting filled rather quickly throughout Q1 of this year.

2. Total Job Openings

Total job openings represent the total number of job openings activated across the entire Workable network.

So, let’s look at the raw job open numbers – which aren’t contingent on job open/close dates like TTF and Candidates per Hire, so we can include April 2022 in this chart:

Yowch. Now things have come down pretty sharply after that intensely busy first quarter for hiring teams. We expected that, to be honest, after a similar thing happened last year with a sharp drop from March to April.

But what’s different is that, this time, the job opening trend actually went negative, from 20.4% in March to -1% in April. Compare that to a sizzling 42.9% in March 2021 down to 17.9% in April 2021. This means job openings went *down* this April, rather than simply slowing down as seen last April.

And consider that while Q1 2022 (17.1%, 14.3%, 20.4%) was a busy quarter for hiring, it’s still nothing compared to what Q1 2021 looked like (22.3%, 25.3%, 42.9%).

We can go back further. April 2020 is not worth considering because that was a very special time in our history, so let’s just skip the year altogether and go back to April 2019. Know what it is? 6.5%. It’s down from Q1 2019, but it’s still a positive trend.

So, a negative trend for April this year after not-nearly-as-high numbers for the first quarter of 2022 is an eye-opener.

Two things to think about here – the first quarter of any year is normally a very busy year for hiring. But 2021 was extra special in that it was not only a normally busy time, but also a time of significant recovery after a disastrous 2020 for many businesses. Not to get into too much politicking, but it’s entirely possible that optimism around the incoming Biden administration at the time may have fueled businesses looking to jump ahead on what they anticipated to be a very busy – and hopefully, flourishing – 2021.

This year, however, things are different. We came out of Omicron in roughly OK shape, all things considered. And despite a recent uptick in new infections, it feels like things are starting to return to relative normalcy.

But then, two other things happened: inflation and war. Those are always going to be hard on businesses and workers. Inflation makes it harder for businesses to meet bottom lines since things cost more even in wholesale. And we’re seeing a massive ripple effect from the invasion of Ukraine, rattling economies worldwide.

Not to go too much into detail about any of that but, honestly, a negative job opening trend for April is interesting. This CNN article emphasizes that as well in its US jobs update for April: it says plenty of jobs are being added, and we’re closer than ever to what the job numbers were before pandemic hell hit, but there are predictions of a slowdown throughout the rest of 2022.

3. Candidates per Hire

Workable defines the number of candidates per hire (CPH) as, succinctly, the number of applicants for a job up to the point of that job being filled.

Let’s look at what’s going on here through March:

(NOTE: Again, as in the TTF chart, you’re probably wondering why we stopped the numbers in March. Again, as stated above, that’s because these data are based on the time the job was opened, not when it was filled.)

Last month, we pointed out how the January trend recalibrated from -18.6% in the March report to 11.3% in the April report. And the same thing is happening in February now, going from -16.1% in the April report to -8% in this month’s report.

But much more worth noting is the stabilization of CPH across the three Q1 months: -10.1% in January, -8% in February, and -13.9% in March.

Compare that with the last three months in last month’s report: -2.5% in December, -11.3% in January, and -16.1% in February – a pretty sharp decline in the trend with each month. We aren’t seeing the same kind of dramatic drop in the CPH trend this time around. Rather, it’s relatively stable month over month.

It should make sense that more jobs being opened would mean fewer candidates per job, because candidates get saturated across jobs. But that’s not happening here – even with the very high job numbers, the CPH trend is still declining but not nearly so dramatically.

Conclusion

Last month, we went into depth on how things are stabilizing in the business world and that’s reflected in the hiring trends. But the biggest eye opener is how April’s job opening trend is lower than it was for previous Aprils in our dataset. And it’s not just a slowdown – it’s an actual negative trend.

And we mentioned above the CNN report and predictions of a slowdown. Here’s the succinct quote from Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor: “We’re in for a slower 2022.”

We’ve talked a *lot* in these reports about the importance of agility and nimbleness in business operations. That reality doesn’t change – and as a matter of fact, that’s the stability a business needs to aspire to regardless of trends in the business bottom line or in the surrounding economy.

We have been through a lot as a society. The pandemic and all its waves and surges. The devastating impacts in the early part of the pandemic, followed by a sudden resurgence and recovery. The social upheaval and activism that carry on to this day. The great resignation, with unprecedented quit rates every month exceeding four million for many months on end. Inflation – and yes, salary growth. And now, war – ugh, another war. It’s been quite a couple of years.

A widely regarded quote from noted investment advisor Robert D. Arnott applies here: “The most treasured asset in investment management is a steady hand at the tiller.” Keep that steady hand when you’re running a business – including in the hiring process – and adjust accordingly. We’re having to adjust accordingly at a clip unlike any in recent times, and we should be experts at it by now. As Bruce Lee suggested, be like water.

Thoughts, comments, disagreements? Send them to [email protected], with “Hiring Pulse” in the subject heading. We’ll share the best feedback in an upcoming report. Watch for our next Hiring Pulse in June!

The Hiring Pulse: Methodology

To bring the best insights to small and medium businesses worldwide, here’s what we’re doing with our data: when looking at a specific month’s trend, we’re taking the numbers from that month and comparing it to the average of the three previous months – and showing as a percentage how that month looks in comparison.

For example, if July shows an average Time to Fill of 30 days for all jobs, and the monthly average for the three preceding months (April, May, June) is 25 days, we present the result for July as a 20% increase.

The majority of the data is sourced from small and medium businesses across the Workable network, making it a powerful resource for SMBs when planning their own hiring strategy.

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