Recovery Continues as Jobless Claims Continue to Fall

With more states and cities lifting restrictive business measures amid a decline in the number of coronavirus cases, the jobs economy continues to show slow signs of improvement. This morning veteran search consultant Steve John shares his views on the economic recovery.

July 1, 2021 – The Labor Department reported that 364,000 Americans filed new claims for state unemployment benefits. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expected 388,000 new jobless claims. 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 4,000 from 411,000 to 415,000. The four-week moving average was 392,750, a decrease of 6,000 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 1,000 from 397,750 to 398,750.

“We find that enhanced jobless benefits are an incentive for only a small share of unemployed workers to not find a job,” Oren Klachkin, lead U.S. economist for Oxford Economics, said. “The data indicates a tenuous relationship between changes in the number of people receiving supplemental jobless benefits and the number of people sending out resumes or filling out job applications.”

“In all, the findings indicate that the value of a permanent job and the elimination of risks tied to staying unemployed (such as the chance of a long jobless spell) outweigh the value of enhanced jobless benefits,” Mr. Klachkin said.

During the week, 50 states reported 5,935,630 continued weekly claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits and 50 states reported 5,261,991 continued claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits. The highest insured unemployment rates in the week were in Rhode Island (5.1), Nevada (4.4), Puerto Rico (3.9), Connecticut (3.8), California (3.6), Illinois (3.6), Alaska (3.4), New York (3.4), Pennsylvania (3.3) and District of Columbia (3.2). The largest increases in initial claims for the week were in Pennsylvania (+14,715), Michigan (+1,862), and Texas (+1,814), while the largest decreases were in Illinois (-4,762), California (-4,112), Ohio (-2,955), Florida (-2,229) and Georgia (-1,826).

Veteran Search Consultant Weighs In

Steve John is the founder and principal search consultant of Steven John & Associates LLC. He launched Steven John & Associates to serve organizations in need of expert legal talent. He brings a wealth of experience in the recruitment of attorneys from a wide range of disciplines. That experience reflects a broad range of industries and includes both private and public companies as well as academic and not-for-profit institutions. In addition to his general counsel search practice, Mr. John has developed particular expertise in the recruitment of attorneys in real estate, intellectual property, higher education law, social justice and regulatory compliance in a number of highly regulated industries.

Mr. John 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 the post pandemic era. Following are excerpts from that discussion.

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

We are seeing a robust return to pre-pandemic levels of search activity after a very brief pause in senior attorney hiring. In fact, hiring at the general counsel/chief legal officer and deputy general counsel level barely slowed in 2020. For enterprises across a multiplicity of industry sectors, attorney thought leaders and business partners are an imperative. Most organizations do not shed their legal departments when things get tough. For many, the challenges of disruption drive greater demand for legal services and that has certainly been the case the first half of 2021. The second half of the year should be no different.

What expectations do you have for the search industry for the rest of the year ahead?

All indicators point to strong demand in the second half of 2021. That demand is driven by two converging factors: a business appetite for senior hires, and a likely uptick in executive departures. As executive talent relaxes into the economic reopening, more and more senior leaders are expressing openness to new professional opportunities. They have had time to think about their values and their post-pandemic work life, and they are intent on aligning their values with their work in ways we haven’t seen before. Search consultants will be on the front lines of that realignment helping organizations pivot in their approach to talent acquisition.

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

One of the greatest challenges our clients face today is keeping up with sharp increases in the demand for law department leadership against the backdrop of increased legal executive mobility. Early in the pandemic, several major law firms and large in-house legal departments rushed to reduce headcount out of fear of cratering demand. Some smaller companies eliminated their law departments altogether. Unfortunately, the demand drop-off many feared didn’t materialize. Reductions in force left organizations flatfooted as demand for legal services ratcheted back up. Despite rational fears to the contrary, demand for corporate legal services has remained robust throughout the pandemic. That demand is putting a squeeze on a finite talent pool that is increasingly confident in their prospects for landing new career opportunities. On top of that increased demand, private law firms are tenaciously holding on to talent by making compensation a differentiator. There has always been a delta between private firm compensation and in-house compensation, but that delta has increased in the face of heavy demand for legal talent.

“One of the greatest challenges our clients face today is keeping up with sharp increases in the demand for law department leadership against the backdrop of increased legal executive mobility.”

What sectors are strongest right now?

We’re seeing continued or increasing strength in the technology sector generally. Financial technology and payments, cybersecurity, AI and SaaS stand out as particularly robust market performers, and leadership hiring reflects that strength. As a cohort, general counsel and their senior deputies have never been in greater demand. Competition for lawyers with deep expertise in data privacy and cybersecurity, mergers and acquisitions, complex commercial transactions, antitrust and employment law is fierce. Venture-backed start-ups are hiring their first general counsel earlier than in years past.

Has your firm adjusted in how it serves clients?

Our firm has taken advantage of opportunities to draw closer to clients by providing ancillary talent services in the form of leadership coaching and organizational design. Our clients’ leadership teams are often stretched to their limits, and organizations are looking for ways to support them in meaningful ways. We have also invested in technologies to help us streamline our partnerships with clients, empowering them with information in real time, giving them greater visibility into, and control over, the work being done on their leadership searches. As the world settled into web-based video meeting platforms, we jumped at the chance it gave us to spend more time with our clients, getting to know their leadership teams.

Related: Executive Search Firms Adapting to the New Normal

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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