As the country dives into a summer overshadowed by COVID-19, the virus is affecting some industries more than others. Some firms that traditionally hire summer help are having a hard time making it work, while others have been inundated by job seekers. Some companies are facing challenges due to restrictions on what businesses can operate in some states, and others have integrated safety requirements seamlessly into their practices.
Here’s what’s happening:
Some industries are competing for workers
Early in the pandemic, the Department of Defense shut down all military moves, and moving companies, which normally staff up in the spring and summer, were forced to lay off large numbers of workers. Then the country started reopening.
“All those people whose moves had been held opened up at one time,” says Karla Sirhan, senior vice president of human resources for Coleman Worldwide Moving. “We went from hiring about 10 to 20 people a week from ordinary attrition to needing to hire 300 a week, but our pool of people isn’t there. We’re competing against every other moving and storage company in the world.”
That said, some of the shortage is location specific. In Alaska, Coleman’s offices are flooded with applications, because cruise ships—which typically hire a lot of people in that area—aren’t running again yet.
Other industries are inundated
Some companies—due to the nature of what they do—are facing a huge uptick in business. Kevin Geick, a manager at disease and biohazard cleanup company BioRecovery.com, says their firm is ramping up hiring for the summer and fall. Although the firm usually specializes in things like crime scene cleanups and trauma, companies have been calling them to clean offices before reopening—and to continue cleaning on a regular basis.
“We have been contacted by thousands of companies to provide regular cleanings to improve workplace safety and provide peace of mind for employees,” Geick says. “Because of this, we are increasing the size of our workforce at a considerably increased rate. We’ve had to open up brand new locations.”
Landscape companies are also seeing a big uptick in applicants, because the work is considered essential and it’s easily adaptable to coronavirus rules. “We do work, for the most part, that is outside and can be done individually or in small teams,” says Jennifer Myers, senior director of workforce development for the National Association of Landscape Professionals. “And we have the ability to put extra precautions in place like having individual pieces of equipment for each person.”
The applicant pool is different from the norm
Some companies are seeing more or different applicants, such as high school students or graduates whose traditional summer jobs aren’t available this year. Hiring is uncertain, for instance, for hospitality companies, which usually hire seasonal help.
Other students who may have been planning to attend a two- or four-year school are taking a gap year and finding jobs instead. “They’re open to new things, or their parents are interested in them working in a safe capacity,” Myers says. “They’re looking for employment that is going to be consistent.”
Geographically, it’s also worth noting that applicants that would have been heading out of town for college may be sticking close to home instead, leading them to look for jobs locally. “All these things lead to landscape contractors and lawn care companies having a larger pool of people than we typically would have,” Myers says. “That’s true for the summer but also stretching into the fall or into next year, potentially.”
Unemployment checks are keeping some people out of the work force
With many unemployed workers receiving larger-than-usual unemployment payments, some companies have found it a challenge to hire workers for jobs that might pay less.
Sirhan says that may be one reason Coleman’s pool of candidates is well below what they would normally see. “In a normal summer, our candidate flow in packers and helpers would be 100 to 300 a week, and we’ve got some locations getting five to 10 applications a week,” Sirhan says. “It’s very, very low.”
Companies are adapting their hiring strategies
Because Coleman is having trouble finding workers, they’ve turned their attention to different kinds of recruiting practices, such as reaching out to teachers who won’t be teaching summer school this year, or approaching college athletic programs.
“The athletic programs love to work with us because we keep their athletes in shape during the summer,” Sirhan says. “We’re having to use slightly different methods to contact them. We’re doing a lot more calling.”
The company is also posting more ads on social media to hit different audiences. “We want to reach those people who ordinarily would not have looked at a company like ours to do something during the summer,” Sirhan says.
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