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Your Hiring Pulse report for February 2024

February's Hiring Pulse uncovers a dynamic shift in the 2024 job market, characterized by a record-setting Candidates per Hire (CPH) trend of 184.8. This report sheds light on the evolving challenges and opportunities within the hiring landscape, particularly highlighting the volatile yet opportunity-rich environment for both employers and job seekers.

Keith MacKenzie
Keith MacKenzie

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

Hiring Pulse

In January’s Hiring Pulse, we took a full deep dive into how each of the past several years compared against each other and came out of it with interesting stuff.

Now it’s February – and we have the opportunity to look at how this year started in each of the three hiring metrics. And we have insights for you.

Let’s take a look!

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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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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Main highlights

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

  • January 2024 marked a record high in the Time to Fill metric
  • Job openings also saw a dramatic surge in January
  • Candidates Per Hire is at an all-time high and at a trend directly contrasting with past Januarys

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

What we see here is a significant jump in the Time to Fill metric. January 2024’s 88.9 is at its highest point since exactly one year ago when the trend hit 90.4 in January 2024.

But that’s not the big story. The month-over-month jump from December to January is the biggest single-month climb in all our data going back to the start of 2019.

Apart from that, nothing is terribly unusual here. The January jump is fairly standard, from what we’ve seen in the past four years:

Now, let’s look at 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 January.

The first thing to jump at us is, like in the TTF trend, the sudden jump from December’s 6.8 job postings per company on average to January’s 8.7 – that’s for all companies in the Workable network.

Again, like the TTF trend, this is normal when looking at past years. December 2021 to January 2022 was 5.2 to 6.6, and December 2022 to January 2023 was 5.2 to 6.6 again. This means one thing – the jump is not unusual, but the raw numbers are definitely higher.

The other element to look at is how each company size bucket is doing in this trend. Small businesses (with 1-50 full-time employees – or FTEs) jumped from 6 job postings on average in December to 6.6 in January, while enterprise-sized businesses (200+ FTEs) saw a dramatic jump from 13.5 to 19.4.

That last part is significant in that it’s the busiest month for enterprise companies since June 2022 which saw 20.3 job postings on average, and the single biggest month-over-month jump in average job postings in all network data.

The busy-ness of mid-sized businesses (51-200 FTEs) is the big story here. After a rather middling 2023 in terms of job posting activity where small business job activity matched or even exceeded mid-sized businesses in terms of volume, mid-sized job postings took a flying leap from 4.6 job postings on average to 7.9 in January. That’s not quite double the previous month but it’s pretty close.

Now, 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 January:

This is absolutely an employers’ market and it’s the same narrative again in this new Hiring Pulse. The Candidates Per Hire trend is again at an all-time high, this time jumping to 184.8 in January.

But for once, that’s not the big story. If we’re talking about a surge in the number of candidates per job, that’s boring. If we talk about it in year-over-year comparison, then it’s interesting.

In the same way that we’ve looked at TTF and JOs, let’s have a look at what Nov-Dec-Jan look like in past years for the CPH trend:

See that? 2021-2022 aside, you can see how a rise in the CPH trend from November to December followed by a dip in January is ‘normal’.

But this time around, we do see the normal jump from November 2023’s 173.5 to December’s 180.6 – but then that’s followed by another jump from December’s 180.6 to January 184.8.

It’s not a huge jump relatively speaking. After all, we’ve seen numerous double-digit month-over-month jumps especially in the first half of 2023, highlighted by a staggering 34.8-point increase from May to June 2023. But it’s still noteworthy because it absolutely goes against the normal trend.

So what’s normal is not normal, and what’s not normal is normal. Get it? No? Never mind – it kind of makes sense if you try and think on it too much.

What’s going on here?

It’s clear that the job market is undergoing a significant transformation, marked by a volatile yet dynamic landscape. The notable increase in the Time to Fill metric coupled with a surge in job openings and an unprecedented high in Candidates Per Hire, underscores a period of intense activity and change within the job market.

Let’s take the optimistic approach: this period is characterized not only by the challenges it presents but also by the unprecedented opportunities it offers to both employers and job seekers alike.

The advent of “easy apply” (lazy apply?) and “one-click apply” options has changed the job application process. It’s not just “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” – it’s much more calculated than that, and it’s further enhanced by AI-driven platforms – even a fully AI-enabled job application experience.

Employers, too, have incorporated AI technologies like Workable to manage the influx of applications – ensuring a smoother and more effective hiring process.

You might even say we’re in a weird Cold War state where the battling technologies of the jobseeker and the hiring team continually keep pace with each other. Well, it’s not actually a Cold War since both are actively making moves – but you get the idea.

Will we reach a point where the robots will do both en masse while we languish at the beach? No, probably not – Workable’s AI in Hiring & Work survey finds that more than one in seven hiring managers still take a solely human approach to making that final hiring decision, while another 56.8% say they take a predominantly human approach with the support of AI tools.

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But the more interesting part is this: 353,000 new jobs were added in January in the United States, and 141 tech companies slashed 34,250 jobs in 2024 as of this report’s publication.

These figures suggest that jobs are not disappearing. Rather, they’re changing, evolving, and migrating across industries and sectors – and yes, skill sets. This points to a highly volatile job market, and also a landscape ripe with opportunities for adaptation and growth.

This job market is absolutely in flux with all the rapid changes in the economy and emergence of new paradigms and technologies in employment. But jobs are not vanishing – they’re transforming, offering new pathways for both employers and job seekers to explore and adapt to the changing dynamics of work.

For you – agility, innovation, and a forward-looking approach are key to harnessing the opportunities that lie ahead. Enjoy, and 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 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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