Jobless Claims Remain High as Restrictions Continue to Lift

Pandemic hiring – and how search firms are adjusting to working with clients and candidate – is evolving and shifting fast. Jonathan Sarn, a partner with executive search firm Kinsley Sarn, reflects on the adjustments underway.

March 18, 2021 – The Labor Department reported this morning that 770,000 more Americans filed new claims for state unemployment benefits. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected 700,000 filings. The reading lands below the previous week’s revised total of 725,000. Before the virus flattened the U.S. economy a year ago, applications for unemployment aid had never topped 700,000 in any week, even during the Great Recession. The Fed have now reported over 80 million initial jobless claims over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic — a number equivalent to roughly 47 percent of the nation’s workforce. Since last February, the United States has lost over 10 million jobs.

“We expect jobless claims to continue to improve as the latest wave of the virus subsides and restrictions are lifted,” Deutsche Bank economist Brett Ryan wrote in a note. “These data take on added significance as they correspond to the survey period for March employment, where we expect to see a notable pick up in hiring.” Coronavirus caseloads have been dropping amid efforts to get vaccines to people who are most vulnerable. But until employers and consumers feel that the pandemic is under control, economists say, the labor market won’t fully recover. “Until people feel this is sustained and that there’s not another huge wave coming, I can’t imagine we’re going to see big changes in jobless claims for a while,” said Allison Schrager, an economist at the Manhattan Institute.

During the week, 51 states reported 7,615,386 continued weekly claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits and 51 states reported 4,815,348 continued claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits. The highest insured unemployment rates in the week were in Pennsylvania (6.1), Alaska (5.6), Nevada (5.4), the Virgin Islands (5.1), Connecticut (5.0), New York (4.7), Rhode Island (4.5), Illinois (4.4), Massachusetts (4.4), and California (4.2). The largest increases in initial claims for the week were in California (+17,793), Ohio (+7,686), Massachusetts (+2,200), Alabama (+1,968), and Virginia (+1,581), while the largest decreases were in New York (-11,906), Illinois (-10,628), Mississippi (-10,549), Texas (-6,932), and Kentucky (-4,580).

Search Expert Weights In

Jonathan Sarn is a partner at Kinsley Sarn, an executive search firm that has been in business for over 15 years. A founding partner who brings over 20 years of progressive human resources experience, Mr. Sarn leads the firm’s executive recruitment practice. The longevity of his placements reflect well on the extensive work he does to find the ideal match that has led to a retention rate north of 95 percent.

Mr. Sarn recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss the pandemic, hiring, and how his firm has adjusted to working with clients and candidates during these difficult times. Following are excerpts from that discussion.

        Jonathan Sarn

Jonathan, what are some challenges facing candidates looking for senior positions during the pandemic?

One of the biggest challenges facing candidates is not being able to go onsite and get a feel for the culture and other intangibles an in-person interview provides. How is the workplace designed, what are the demographics, how do employees interact with one another, how do employees react as the candidate moves between interviews, what is the atmosphere in the workplace and how does it make the candidate feel. Meeting over video, either one-on-one or with multiple people that are in their own remote spaces, forces a candidate to make an educated guess on critical components to their fit and engagement and potential for success in a new company. Candidates also want to understand where a company stands on the critical issues in the marketplace – diversity, inclusion and belonging, fair compensation and acceptance to name a few – and understand the ongoing commitment. They are looking at how the company identifies and enhances their relationships with the underrepresented communities and what they are doing to support social change.

All important factors as candidates make their own assessments, right?

Yes. This all factors into a candidate’s decision as it provides insight into the organization’s culture. It is during times of volatility that true leadership shines. Good leaders know that leading through uncertainty requires clear communication, quick decision-making skills, and the ability to hold others accountable – and this is what candidates are looking to uncover. During the recruitment process, candidates are also looking for leaders that exude empathy and patience. Candidates want to understand if continued education, development, and advancement is a fundamental part of the company.  They not only want to understand how they will continue to develop and enhance their performance and potential, but they also want to know about potential next steps. Companies that offer this future are the ones that win the war for talent.

How has your firm adjusted to serve clients and candidates, and do you think these adjustments are here to stay?

During the last few months, we have all heard the phrase ‘the new normal’ repeatedly. The adjustments we have had to make have altered the way we do many of our everyday tasks. While it is hard to predict what will come of this experience, the quicker your company is able to adjust and implement any new talent assessment practices, the easier it will be for everyone to adapt and familiarize themselves with the protocol.

One of the biggest challenges facing candidates is not being able to go onsite and get a feel for the culture and other intangibles an in-person interview provides.”

What about virtual interviewing?

While not a common practice before the pandemic, virtual interviewing has proved beneficial. This one-way video provides a set of pre-screening questions for applicants to answer, which is then reviewed by the hiring team to decide who to move on to a live meeting. While a face-to-face meeting may not be an option, the increase in quality of video technology is almost as good. During video interviews, it is more important than ever before to build rapport with the candidate. We believe that sharing the positive and challenging aspects of the company will build trust and strengthen the relationship as it progresses. To do this, consider asking a recent hire to sit down and share their experience, as it provides a real example and demonstrates your willingness to be honest and transparent.

What can be done to overcome any barriers from not meeting candidates in person?

While getting to know candidates on a deeper level over a screen does have its constraints, these barriers can be overcome by implementing creative approaches. Keep the communication frequent to show interest and keep the process flowing. Use your time to openly discuss the position and company in a conversational tone, as it leads to more authentic dialogue. The added bottom line benefit is that video interviewing reduces the costs associated with the hiring process, such as travel costs while also being less time-consuming and provide flexibility for passive candidates who may not have had the versatility before.

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

Share This Article


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments