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Your Hiring Pulse report for December 2023

Our monthly Hiring Pulse report is based on SMB hiring trends across the Workable network. See how your own business compares to the overall.

Keith MacKenzie
Keith MacKenzie

Passionate about human resources, employment, and business management, and an expert at sharing that expertise.

Hiring Pulse

In November’s Hiring Pulse, we noted a huge drop in new jobs in the United States from 336,000 in September to 150,000 in October.

But now that’s changed again. Last month, the United States saw 199,000 new jobs added – the bulk of it in healthcare, social assistance, government, leisure, and manufacturing, Retail, on the other hand, lost a collective 38,400 jobs in November.

UK data is not yet released to the end of November, but we do have good news: we have our own network data from the UK & Ireland which will be our deep dive for this month.

Without further ado, let’s look at the three major hiring metrics as per the Hiring Pulse tradition.

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!

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!

Be informed

Main highlights

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

  • Candidates per Hire sees its third-biggest MoM drop of the year 
  • Time to Fill is dropping, and that’s unusual at this time of year
  • Small businesses are hiring much more than medium-sized businesses in the UK & Ireland

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 November 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 October against the average of 2019, based on jobs that have been filled:

Last month, we pointed enthusiastically to the three consecutive months of increase in the Time to Fill trend from August through to October – but now, that trend has come back down rather dramatically from a 2023 high of 85.2 in October to 82.1 in November.

November sees the year’s third-lowest TTF trend after May’s 80.6 and March’s 81.7. The drop of 3.1 points from October to November also marks the third-biggest drop from one month to the next after January’s 90.7 to February’s 86.2 (a drop of -4.5), and February’s 86.2 to March’s 81.7 (also -4.5).

So, is this… normal? Sorta. First, let’s look at the Jan-Feb-March change in the TTF for the years going back to 2020:

Looks sorta normal from here, apart from some stragglers. 2020 and 2022 look roughly the same – a dip from January to February followed by a rebound in March. 2021 and 2023 both follow the same downward trajectory for the TTF trend.

Now, look at how the different years compare for September-October-November:

Note that while September to October vary depending on the year, October to November looks very stable for 2020, 2021, and 2022.

2023 on the other hand… a huge drop that doesn’t look seasonal at all if you’re comparing it against previous years in the same time period.

Let’s move to 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 November.

We noted last month how small businesses (1-50 full-time employees) were more active than their mid-market (51-200 FTEs) peers in October – that’s reversed now. Those in the mid-market bucket have rebounded in new job activity from 5.9 jobs per company in October to 6.6 in November.

Meanwhile, that big jump for enterprise-level companies (200+ FTEs) is now all but erased with a drop from 17.6 jobs per company in October to 16.6 in November. That’s a drop of one full job posting per company. The overall average – yes, slightly skewed by the enterprise-level data – also fell from 8.3 to 7.9 jobs per company on average.

Moving right along to 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.

Now that Let’s look at what’s going on here through November:

The broken record has now been… broken for the moment, at least. After all those month-over-month increases dating back to the end of 2021 – with the exception of a few mostly anomalous drops – we’re seeing a pretty big drop in the Candidates per Hire trend.

In short, CPH dropped 10.8 points from 185.7 in October to 174.9 in November, the second-biggest drop since a 12.5-point drop from November to December 2021 – the only one higher was a 12-point drop from April to May this year.

Stating the obvious: a drop in CPH does not mean anything if it’s just another of the many anomalous drops over the past couple of years.

Now, let’s do our deep dive into the same data for the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Deep dive – UK & Ireland hiring metrics

Workable’s network data is broken out into five distinct regions around the world – North America, Latin & South America, Asia-Pacific (APAC), Europe / Middle East / Africa (EMEA), and finally, UK & Ireland.

The last region is our deep dive for this month. Let’s look at the three metrics in this regional bucket.

1. Time to Fill – UK & Ireland

What we saw in the worldwide data for the Time to Fill metric is reflected in UK&I as well – namely, a three-month sequence of TTF increases that end with a sharp plummet from 87.1 in October to 80.4 in November.

The difference is that the drop of 6.7 points is much more pronounced than the worldwide drop of 3.1.

2. Total Job Openings – UK & Ireland

Now here’s where things look different, in the job openings.

In the worldwide data, we noted how small companies (1-50 FTEs) and medium-sized (51-200 FTEs) were swapping spots in terms of job posting activities. And below, we’re re-sharing the chart above rather than overlay it with UK&I to reduce the amount of visual clutter:

But in the UK & Ireland, it’s very different. While companies in the medium-sized bucket are *almost* as active as in other parts of the world (5.6 job openings per company in UK&I vs. 6.6 worldwide), they absolutely pale in comparison to those in the small-sized bucket.

Small companies in UK&I are hiring at a torrid pace in September (11.5 jobs per company), October (10.7), and November (11.5) of this year, right on pace with the overall average.

Enterprise-level companies (200+ FTEs) are hiring even more in UK&I (18.9) when compared with worldwide (16.6) in November – and that’s been the case throughout most of 2023.

3. Candidates per Hire – UK & Ireland

The CPH trend, however, tells a very different story. Whi;le the CPH trend looks consistent between both UK&I and worldwide, two things stand out: first, the CPH trend topped out at 210.5 in September 2023 – a 147% increase over January 2022’s 85.2. That’s compared to a 111% increase from 84.7 to 179 worldwide.

The second thing to look at is just how much the CPH trend has dropped from 210.5 in September to 181.9 in October to 163.9 in November. That’s compared with a relatively stable worldwide trend of 179 in September to 185.7 in October to 174.9 in November.

What’s going on here?

Interesting, non? It just speaks to the reality that worldwide data can bring some insights but they do not tell the whole story. The real story is in the regions, the industries, and the functions – and especially, a intersectional approach to all of these for all three hiring metrics.

Hiring data isn’t the truth in itself and of itself – rather, it’s an opportunity for us to look at the complex interplay between macroeconomic trends, sector-specific challenges, and evolving employer strategies, particularly in the multiple undulating shifts in the global labor landscape.

So what does all that malarkey mean for you as an HR professional or hiring manager? It means you’re working in a multifaceted hiring landscape, especially if your company operates across borders and time zones. Imagine posting a job in this environment and managing the large volume of a diverse and shifting pool of candidates.

This doesn’t have to be an uphill climb – it simply underscores the importance of an adaptable, agile recruitment strategy that incorporates advanced tools and tech (including AI) in the attraction of top talent to your organization.

Enjoy the rest of the year, and see you in 2024!

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 May!

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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