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Your Hiring Pulse report for April 2024

April's Hiring Pulse has many dramatic messages in it. Job postings are coming down dramatically compared with previous years – and the candidate pool is finally coming back down to relative earth levels.

Content team
Content team

Content manager Keith MacKenzie and content specialist Alex Pantelakis bring their HR & employment expertise to Resources.

Hiring Pulse

In March’s Hiring Pulse, we looked at year-over-year comparisons through different lenses in our data.

And this time, we find the differences even more striking. Let’s have a look and understand what those differences are – and more so, what they mean.

How we’re looking at data

We’ve adopted two methodologies in how we look at the Hiring Pulse dataset. For Time to Fill and Candidates per Hire, we’re measuring each month using the average of 2019, the last “normal” year, as a baseline index of 100.

For job openings, we’re taking a different route – simply, the average number of job postings per company. This gives us the opportunity to gauge overall recruitment activity and whether that’s going up or down.

Want a more detailed methodology? Jump to the end and check it out.

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

  • Time to Fill (TTF)
  • Total Job Openings (JO)
  • Candidates per Hire (CPH)

Let’s start analyzing!

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Main highlights

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

  • Job opening trend bleaker than in past years
  • Talent pools are shrinking – sharply
  • Q1 of 2024 looks very different compared with previous Q1s

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: jobs that are still open as of the end of January are not included in this graph as they don’t yet have an “end date”. Only the jobs that are filled are included here.

Quick clarification, because people are asking: the data in this chart shows the trendline against the 2019 average as an index of 100, not the actual number of days in TTF.

Got that? Good. Let’s have a look at the monthly TTF trend through to the end of March against the average of 2019, based on jobs that have been filled:

You might find this refreshing, or you might not: there isn’t much undulation either way this time around for March’s Time to Fill Metric, which dropped a humble 1.1 points from February’s 82.6 to March’s 81.5.

We noted in past Hiring Pulses how January’s spike is likely the result of strained bandwidth in hiring teams over the holiday season and the fall back to ‘normal’ levels in February being a result of teams catching up in filling crucial roles in their organization.

This month is more of the same – just business as usual Which is nice, until you look at the next metric – that of the Job Openings.

2. Total Job Openings

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

As stated above, we’re displaying this as an average of job postings per company in the network. And because this is not contingent on job opened/filled dates like TTF and Candidates per Hire, we can simply look at the raw job open numbers up to the end of March.

As usual, when we’re looking at four different company size buckets here – the 1-50, the 51-200, the 200+, and all of them combined – we’ll always find an interesting story to tell.

The overarching stat you want to look at is the average number of job postings across all company sizes throughout the entire Workable network. That number is down to 8.2 job postings per company on average in March, which is down from 8.7 in January and 8.6 in February.

The enterprise-level bucket (with 200+ full-time employees) is also down in job activity, from 18.5 new job postings on average in January to 17.1 in February and now, 16.5 in March.

Medium-sized businesses (51-200) saw a more dramatic drop – down one full job posting on average from 7.8 in February to 6.8 in March.

The small businesses (1-50), at least, show relatively stable activity – 6.8 in January, 7 in February, and back to 6.8 in March.

And let’s put all of this in perspective: for analysis’ sake, let’s say the typical enterprise-level company has 250 employees. March’s 16.5 jobs on average would mean 6.6% of the entire company’s payroll is, technically, looking for new people to pay. That’s one in 15 job positions across the company needing to be filled/backfilled in March.

Encompassing anywhere from 51-200 employees, our medium-sized businesses bucket covers a wide spectrum, but let’s just say 125 for this analysis. March’s 6.8 job postings translates to 5.4% of the company’s employee base, or roughly one in 18 employees.

So, in a sense, companies with 125 employees are hiring less per capita than companies with 250 employees.

Now, when we look at small businesses, the difference stands out. Since we picked the middle of the range for medium-sized businesses (125, based on 51-200), let’s use 25 as our employee size for a small business. In this case, March’s 6.8 equates to a staggering 27.2% of all employees in the company. That’s more than one in four employees.

Imagine going into your office and for every Thomas, Shiloh, Hassan, and yourself, one of you is the “new hire”. That’s a sizable portion, especially impactful when you’re a small business that thrives on agility. A quick onboarding for any new hire is a must in this area – and a delayed time to full ramp (i.e. full production) can prove costly for you.

OK, enough of that. You may be wondering how all of this compares to previous years, especially since we did it last month. We talk a lot about the “new normal”, or in Ida Wolfe’s case, the “never normal”. So, what’s normal for March?

Note: this is calculated a little differently. For the sake of direct comparison, we’re using January as our baseline index of 100.

Obviously, 2020 was a gong show starting in March, so let’s set that one aside and look at the other years in our dataset. You can see how 2024 is the only year out of the five other years where there’s a drop in job posting activity. Every other year (again, 2020 excluded), we see a healthy upswing in jobs for March. Not this year.

OK, what does that look like for each of the size buckets? First, the companies with 1-50 full-time employees:

Small businesses have been a feel-good story over the last little while for the most part – but when we look at it through this specific year-over-year lens, we see that, again, the first quarter of this year doesn’t look great compared with previous years (again, ignoring 2020 as an obvious anomaly).

And moreover, this year shows the only February-March decline of any year in our dataset.

Let’s look at the 51-200 FTE size bucket now:

Like the 1-50 FTE size bucket, the mid-range companies (51-200) paint an equally bleak picture for the first quarter of the new year. Again, when omitting 2020, this year’s the only one that takes a sharp nosedive from February to March 2024. And it’s a pretty steep one, too.

Now – the 200+ FTE companies:

The enterprise-level companies also see a drop from February, but the difference from the other two size buckets is that the drop is not nearly as pronounced as the one seen from January to February. That’s the opposite of what we saw last month, where this category saw the biggest month-to-month drop not only when compared with the other sizes, but any Jan-Feb drop of any year for any bucket.

Interesting. And unlike previous Hiring Pulse reports, there’s actually even more eye-opening stuff coming up, this one in the Candidates per Hire metric.

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. Again, remember, this is a trendline using the 2019 CPH average as a baseline of 100, not the actual number of candidates per hire.

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

Remember that time on the roller coaster in [insert town here]? How you were slowly climbing up the tracks with a rhythmic clickety-clack clickety-clack, until you reach the top and then all of a sudden you’re careening down the other side so your heart basically goes up your throat?

Well, this is the metric version of that – the Candidates per Hire metric, which has been in a steady upward climb (with a month or two here of moderate drops or stabilization) since basically mid–late 2022, is suddenly coming down in a dramatic drop. If January’s 189.9 to February’s 182 felt like a lot, then February’s 182 to March’s 161.6 is, in a word, dramatic.

That’s a drop of 20.4 points – the biggest since a 30.2-point drop from October to November 2020, and the second-biggest drop in all our records dating back to January 2019.

Since we’re doing year-over-year comparisons in this report, let’s do that for CPH as well:

Two different ways to look at this. Either candidate pools are in rapid decline, or they’re simply returning to the “normal” of previous years after being so high for so long.

Let’s now go into what we think all this may mean.

What’s going on here?

Perhaps all the tumult around layoffs, restabilization (as opposed to destabilization), the talent shift, and so on has meant new jobs popping up and those getting filled in quick order.

We mentioned the talent shift – Trevor Bogan over at Top Employers Institute wrote a little about this and we’ll get a little deeper about it here. It’s basically how old talents and skills aren’t necessarily becoming redundant or obsolete; they are simply no longer in need in some areas and in greater need in other areas. The same for goods and services – some lessen in importance and value, and others grow in value over that same time period.

So is there really job loss? Maybe to a degree, as we’ve seen in layoffs. But it’s more of a groundshift.

Think about what happened during COVID. If you were lucky enough to have a fully online platform, especially in the area of communication, delivery, or something similar, the demand for your software likely skyrocketed during the pandemic when the majority of society operated on a remote basis both at work and at play.

Now, we have AI which is one of the more exciting developments to come along in a long time. It’s also disrupted our society to a point where those already operating in AI technology are very optimistic about times ahead – a recent Deloitte report finds 62% of leaders from AI-fueled orgs are excited about what’s coming up.

And 79% expect generative AI to change the way in which they operate over the next three years. A bulk of that is in coding, especially – which is one example of a sector facing considerable upheaval (if not redundance) in the age of AI.

There’s reason to be cautious (and you’re in good company if you are – 30% feel uncertain about it all), but if you’re not one of the early adopters of new technology and able to adapt quickly to new developments, your company may fall behind.

One way to stay pace with your competition is not just to maintain product competitiveness, but to also acquire and retain the best talent that’s out there. A solid HR suite may be what you need to stay up there atop the hill.

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See you next month!

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 April!

The Hiring Pulse: Methodology

Because one of the three metrics (Job Openings) is different from the other two metrics (Time to Fill and Candidates per Hire), we’re adopting two very distinct methodologies.

To bring the best insights to small and medium (and enterprise-level) businesses worldwide, here’s what we’re doing with the Job Openings metric: we’re taking the number of job openings in a given month and dividing that by the number of active companies in our dataset, and posting that as an average. For example, if July 2022 shows the average Job Openings per company as 7.7, that simply means each company posted an average of 7.7 jobs that month.

For the Time to Fill and Candidates per Hire metrics, we’re comparing a specific month’s trend against the full average of 2019, and we show the result using that 2019 average as a baseline index of 100. For example, if July 2022 shows an average Time to Fill of 30 days for all jobs, and the monthly average for all of 2019 is 28, we present the result for July 2022 as 107.1 – in other words, 7.1% higher than the average of 2019.

And we chose 2019 as the baseline because, frankly, that’s the last normal year before the pandemic started to present challenges to data analysis among other things.

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

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