Despite Increasing COVID-19 Cases, 2021 Hiring Forecasts Look Positive

“Can we just go back to normal?” is probably a question you’ve asked yourself repeatedly throughout the pandemic, and if so, you aren’t alone. This “new normal” we’ve been forced into is getting old, and while we’ve all made great strides in adapting, people all over the world are craving some semblance of “normal.”

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If you were hoping for “normal” in the new year, sadly, you may be waiting a while. However, there are some positive signs that we’re rounding the corner and putting COVID-19 in the rearview mirror. ManpowerGroup has released its hiring outlook for the first quarter in 2021, and things are looking up—literally!

According to ManpowerGroup in a press release, “Employers in the U.S. report steadily improving hiring plans for Q1.” The latest ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey consists of responses from more than 6,700 employers and reveals that employers are shifting their HR priorities for the long term as a result of the pandemic. Heading into the new year, employee health and well-being, manager coaching, and upskilling will be front and center for HR leaders.

Which Industry Is Making Gains?

Employers in leisure and hospitality (+26%), transportation and utilities (+22%), and wholesale and retail trade (+20%) report the three strongest outlooks for the second consecutive quarter as employers rehire furloughed workers and the rise in e-commerce continues through the holiday season.

Nondurable goods manufacturing (+19%) saw the greatest improvements, increasing 10 percentage points from the previous quarter. Education and health services (+14%) report the only decrease in hiring when compared with the previous quarter—down 1 percentage point. A full breakdown is listed as follows:

  • Leisure and hospitality (+26%)
  • Transportation and utilities (+22%)
  • Wholesale and retail trade (+20%)
  • Nondurable goods manufacturing (+19%)
  • Professional and business services (+17%)
  • Construction (+17%)
  • Education and health services (+14%)
  • Financial activities (+14%)
  • Durable goods manufacturing (+14%)
  • Government (+10%)
  • Information (+9%)
  • Other services (+9%) 

“As the labor market navigates the impact of the pandemic, it’s encouraging to see hiring outlooks continue to move in a positive direction on the road to recovery,” says Becky Frankiewicz, President of ManpowerGroup North America. “As Americans shop, socialize and work from multi-functional homes, operations and logistics roles to support e-commerce are in high demand and we are beginning to see green shoots in manufacturing too as supply chains reopen.”

“Organizations are navigating for today while preparing their workforce for the New Next. We’re pleased to see so many U.S. employers prioritize putting the ‘human’ back into HR, focusing on employee well-being and skills development while implementing flexible work models so people can blend work and home for the long term,” adds Frankiewicz.

Which Regions of the United States Are Making Gains?

According to the Q1 outlook, hiring intentions strengthen in all four U.S. regions when compared with the previous quarter. The strongest hiring pace is anticipated in the Midwest (+20%), while Northeast employers expect steady hiring intentions (+16%). Hiring activity is anticipated to improve in the South and the West, with outlooks of +17% and +15%, respectively.

Employers in Vermont (+56%), Montana (+38%), Iowa, (+31%), South Dakota (+29%), and Arkansas (+26%) report the strongest outlooks nationwide. Of the 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas, the strongest outlooks are expected in Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida (+42%); Winston-Salem, North Carolina (+34%); Grand Rapids-Wyoming, Michigan (+34%); El Paso, Texas (+34%); and Des Moines-West Des Moines, Iowa (+31%).

While it remains to be seen what will happen with hiring in the first quarter, it’s refreshing to see such positive outlooks given the last year of uncertainty and stress. Cheers to the New Year!