Despite Jobless Claims Dropping to New Low, Companies Still Having a Hard Time Finding Talent

The number of Americans filing for unemployment insurance fell again last week, extending a steady decline through the fall, however many organizations are finding it difficult to attract workers. Leslie Loveless of Slone Partners joins Hunt Scanlon to discuss what she is seeing in the job market and how her firm has adjusted.

October 28, 2021 – The Labor Department reported that 281,000 Americans have filed new claims for state unemployment benefits, a decrease of 10,000. This is the lowest level for initial claims since March 14, 2020 when it was 256,000. The previous week’s level was revised up by 1,000 from 290,000 to 291,000. The four-week moving average was 299,250, a decrease of 20,750 from the previous week’s revised average. This is also the lowest level for this average since March 14, 2020 when it was 225,500. The previous week’s average was revised up by 250 from 319,750 to 320,000.

The economy grew at a 6.7 percent rate in the second quarter. The Delta variant of the coronavirus worsened labor shortages at factories, mines and ports, gumming up the supply chain. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast GDP rising at a 2.7 percent rate last quarter. By last month, the economy had reclaimed more than 17 million of the lost jobs. But that was still 5 million short of where the labor market stood in February 2020.

And hiring slowed sharply last month — to just 194,000 new jobs after averaging a 607,000 a month the first eight months of the year. That is partly because companies can’t find enough people to fill their job openings — 10.4 million in August, second-highest in records going back to 2000.

During the week, 42 states reported 270,013 continued weekly claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits and 45 states reported 244,379 continued claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits. The highest insured unemployment rates were in District of Columbia (7.4), Puerto Rico (3.7), California (3.2), Georgia (2.7), Illinois (2.7), Hawaii (2.6), New Jersey (2.5), Nevada (2.4), the Virgin Islands (2.4), and Alaska (2.3). The largest increases in initial claims were in California (+9,748), Tennessee (+1,688), Florida (+1,266), Georgia (+1,088), and Illinois (+512), while the largest decreases were in Virginia (-7,380), Michigan (-4,083), Pennsylvania (-4,033), Kentucky (-2,753), and Ohio (-2,287).

Veteran Search Consultant Weighs In

Leslie Loveless is the CEO of life sciences search firm Slone Partners. She brings nearly 20 years of healthcare industry and executive search experience to Slone Partners. She joined the firm in 2007, became COO in 2014 and CEO in 2016. At Slone Partners, Ms. Loveless acts as the leader of the organization as well as the head of the executive search team. Her involvement with clients and candidates enables her to understand the key motivations of each. As CEO, Ms. Loveless’ focus extends to cultivating new business partnerships and expanding relationships with existing clients. Through her leadership, life sciences and biotechnology have emerged as the primary client base for Slone Partners.

Ms. Loveless recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss the pandemic, hiring, and how her firm has adjusted to working with clients and candidates during the post-pandemic era. Following are excerpts from that discussion.

   Leslie Loveless

Leslie, many are optimistic about a return to normalcy by the end of the year. What are your thoughts about the recovery?

It is difficult to predict, but I am confident that the “new normal” will be different than the “old normal.” The pandemic was a significant disruptor for life science companies and life science leadership recruiters. It has greatly increased awareness around the tremendous value that life science companies bring to the market, and for their capacity to respond quickly and effectively in the face of a devastating virus. This awareness has helped fuel a tremendous flow of venture capital into the industry, which is funding both existing and new companies, and that has a long tail so the competition for leadership talent will continue for at least several years. The pandemic also helped engender greater understanding around the value of remote work, and that will not be going away anytime soon. The topic comes up in nearly every conversation that we have with candidates. They want the ability to choose where they live based on their family’s needs, not based on the company’s geographic location, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.  For these reasons, defining normalcy must include an unprecedented war for talent and the realization that not providing some level of flexibility in work structure will come with ramifications that companies will have to choose to accept…or not.

What are some of the challenges you’re seeing right now?

As mentioned above, the competition for top leadership talent is more intense now than I have ever experienced. So, we as recruiters are having to dig deeper into our networks and outside our traditional networks to build robust and diverse candidate pools for our client partners. Companies are more and more committed to building a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture so that is factoring into all of our searches. Also, more often than not, top candidates are receiving offers from multiple companies, so time is of the essence. We are working very diligently with our clients to keep the timeline moving along efficiently so that they have the opportunity to sign the ideal candidate before their competition does. On top of that, candidates are often asking for larger compensation packages and more senior job titles than perhaps would have been warranted in the past. They are certainly in the driver’s seat in the negotiations because there are more open leadership positions in this market than there are talented people to fill them. As recruiters, it is our business to have open and honest conversations with candidates every step of the way to ensure that they are the right fit for the job and for the company. And, if it seems they’re only in it for the money then we wave the red flag. The last thing we want is for the candidate to take the job, but then depart for another higher-paying position a few months later. A delayed hire is better than a bad hire.

“We as recruiters are having to dig deeper into our networks and outside our traditional networks to build robust and diverse candidate pools for our client partners.”

Has your firm adjusted in how it serves clients?

First off, we have been conducted many all-remote searches during the pandemic, so we work closely with our client partners to ensure they feel comfortable with every step of the process. It is a novel concept to hire someone for a top leadership position whom you’ve never met face-to-face. That dynamic is beginning to change now that we are seeing the pandemic come to an end and in-person meetings are slowly resuming, but in the meantime, we take extra time and care with video interviews and other conversations with candidates to ensure that they will be a good fit with the company, and the company will be a good fit for the candidate. Also, we’ve had to work harder than ever to establish reasonable but aggressive timelines for our searches to confront the challenge of this extremely tight labor market. As mentioned above, top candidates are often receiving multiple job offers quickly so we can’t expect them to wait too long for our client partners to tender an offer. Because of these new realities, it is extremely important right now for us to communicate very clearly and consistently with our clients so that they are completely aware of the status of the search and are prepared to move forward quickly at the right moment.

Related: Major Paradigm Shifts Coming Out of the Coronavirus Crisis

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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