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The One Chart Best Depicting the Great Recession’s Impact on Hiring

Chart of Unemployed Per Job Opening

This chart, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is worth way more than a thousand words.

It hints at the real impact of 8 million jobs lost. It shows the human toll of the unfettered greed and avarice in our financial system and depicts in meaningful terms the challenge before us.

Take a close look. First, examine the “ordinary” recession that preceded the Great Recession.

If you were a job seeker in early 2001 things were pretty good. Numerically there was almost one job available in the United States for every person who was looking for a job. Sure, that doesn’t mean there was a one-to-one fit, but it does speak to your odds of finding a job if you were looking for one.

Then, starting in March of 2001, the U.S. economy entered a nine-month long recession. During that recession the number of job seekers for every job opening essentially doubled from 1.2 to 2.3. Ouch, that hurt. Even worse, after the recession ended the job market continued to deteriorate for job seekers, and by September of 2003 reached almost 3 job seekers per opening. How am I ever going to find a job?

Fortunately things finally turned around and the market improved steadily from September of 2003 until early in 2007 reaching 1.5 job seekers per opening. Then someone decided the real estate fueled boom was going bust. Welcome to the Great Recession, the worst downturn since the Great Depression!

What happened next is what we call a “hockey stick” effect for its similarity to the way the end of a hockey stick juts up from the handle. From the time the 19 month long Great Recession started in December of 2007, until its end in December of 2009, the number of job seekers per opening did something not seen in recorded history. It grew from 1.8 to 6.1 job seekers per opening! And, like the previous recession, after the Great Recession ended it kept growing to almost 7 job seekers per opening.

Can you imagine how that must of felt? During the Great Recession job openings fell (from 4.5 million to just over 2 million) while layoffs and discharges increased (from 2 million to a peak of 2.5 million). It was like the reverse of an old saying, the rats didn’t flee the sinking ship but rather kept getting on the hiring ship as it was going down.

Where are we now? In September of this year the number of job seekers per opening had declined to 4.2, still almost three times the ratio before the Great Recession.

This bulge of job seekers presents human resources professionals and hiring managers the challenge of identifying the most suitable candidates from among large numbers of applicants. We’re seeing success dealing with this issue though the use of video to screen and interview job candidates. The benefits of video screening improve both time-to-hire as well as quality of hire.

About The Author

Jim Robinson

Jim Robinson holds an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley and has extensive management and consulting experience. He managed a team with worldwide product, sales and support responsibilities at AMF before becoming an independent business consultant in 1996. Along with David Propis, he co-founded Hire-Intelligence, LLC in 2011 and today serves as CEO of the company.

One Response to “The One Chart Best Depicting the Great Recession’s Impact on Hiring”

  1. July 1, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Very interesting info!Perfect just what I was looking for!

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