Understanding Unemployment Gaps on Résumés

The 2008 recession may be a thing of the past, but its impact still lingers on. According to new Monster research, 59% of respondents have been unemployed, or had a gap in their career, at some point in time—and what’s the main cause for these gaps?


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“This most recent Monster research unveiled some interesting insights into the career concerns, plans and goals of working Americans,” says Monster CEO, Scott Gutz—in an e-mail to Recruiting Daily Advisor. “One specific set of data that stood out, was the number of unexpected layoffs and employment gaps—three in five Americans (59%) said they have experienced one or the other at some point in their career.”

Family First

According to almost half of respondents (48%), family-related issues were to blame for an employment gap. Furthermore, 37% of respondents blame their employment gap on being laid off. While some may feel there is a stigma to having an employment gap, it’s important to understand what causes these gaps in the first place.
Before rushing to judgment, consider the data:

  • For respondents who cited family-related reasons, taking time off to raise a family (unrelated to maternity/paternity leave) was the most common response (18%). And not surprisingly, this was higher among women (26%) than men (9%).
  • Maternity/paternity leave (15%) was the second most common reason, and again this was higher among women (21%) than men (8%). Additionally, taking care of a sick family member or friend was the third most common reason (15%).
  • Other than family issues, being laid off (37%), needing a break from work (18%), being fired (16%), and going back to school (13%) were all reasons respondents cited for their employment gaps.

Layoffs Last

The Monster research also found that the average gap in unemployment is over 2 years (roughly 25 months). For employees who are laid off, this is a long time to be unemployed. Monster also found that among those who have lost a job unexpectedly (laid off or fired), 43% have had it happen more than once.
Regardless of whether or not they’ve been laid off before, almost half of Americans (48%) do not feel very secure in their current position (either just somewhat secure or insecure all together)—and company layoffs are a major reason why. Monster uncovered the top reasons why Americans do not feel secure in their current job, which include:

  • Company layoffs (38%)
  • The concern they’re not meeting expectations (23%)
  • Feelings that the boss doesn’t trust in them (16%)

Feeling secure is a major part of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. If your company is contemplating a reduction in force, you should make every possible attempt to communicate with employees in order to keep them in the loop.
If layoffs aren’t in your future, you must communicate with workers that their jobs are safe, and they are wanted. Communication can help reduce employees’ fears and curb unnecessary gossip and misinformation.
Overall, no matter what your company’s current situation is, communication plays an important part in your company’s culture. And as we know, the right culture is key to retaining top talent.

Company Culture Plays a Part in Talent Retention

While we continue to hear about the candidate-driven market, one thing that isn’t covered by the data is company culture. Sure, 18% of respondents cited needing a break, but that doesn’t fully explain what they needed a break from. Could the company culture have played a part in the employee’s departure? As we know, jobseekers care about cultural fit just as much as employers do.
“With so many unexpected events thrown your way in life, the one thing you should feel good about, is your place of work,” says Gutz. “This may sound like a foreign thought to some but it’s pretty simple. If you can match the right candidate with the right job, you’re instantly creating a happier and more productive workplace.”
And with 59% of respondents reporting unemployment at some point in their careers, it’s imperative that you match a jobseeker with a role that is the right fit, right off the bat. “When you look at it, this is a high percentage of the population left to search for a new job. And, even more important, left to find the next right fit,” says Gutz. “This is something we’re heavily focused on at Monster—helping employers and candidates find the right fit.”
So how can employers and recruiters find the right fit? Monster may be able to help.
“We understand this is not a one size fits all approach and that finding the right fit means different things to different people,” says Gutz. “But if through our innovative tools and technologies, such as Monster Studios and SearchMonster, we can help provide better transparency on the job and on the candidate to yield better fits for all, then we can help candidates at every stage in their career, and in life, take another step forward towards finding their right fit for long-term success.”
So, the next time you see an employment gap on a candidate’s résumé, keep this research in mind, it may not entirely be the candidate’s fault.


Results are from an online survey commissioned by Monster among a nationally representative sample of 1,000 fully employed Americans ages 18- to 65-years old.
A sample of n=200 was taken for each of the age groups 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, and 55-65. This survey was conducted between December 17, 2018, and December 27, 2018, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1% at a 95% confidence level.

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