As seasonal industries like construction, landscaping, and home improvement ramp up hiring for the warmer months of the year, the tightness of the US labor market is requiring employers to embrace new technologies to recruit at a faster pace, and engendering unusually stiff competition for seasonal talent. Candidates for part-time and temporary work don’t normally hold much leverage when it comes to negotiating pay and benefits, in this economy, they are increasingly able to demand more flexibility in terms of scheduling, Steve Bates writes in an overview of the seasonal hiring landscape at SHRM:
“The old way was ‘You’ve got to work certain shifts,’ ” said Greg Dyer, president of Randstad Commercial Staffing, who is based in Atlanta. “Now the workforce is demanding ‘I want to work when I want to work.’ “
Low unemployment and improved technology have empowered the full-time workforce. That trend is filtering down to seasonal hiring as the gig economy grows and increasing numbers of U.S. workers—particularly Millennials—value flexibility over pay rates and long-term job security.
“It is a worker’s market,” said Jocelyn Mangan, chief operating officer of online employment platform Snagajob, which is headquartered in Arlington, Va. “Employers are having to work harder.” … In addition to using traditional online job postings, employers are experimenting with kiosks, social media and mobile apps to find, schedule and keep seasonal hires.
The scarcity of available seasonal workers is also becoming a challenge for retailers, shipping companies, and other employers in the winter season, leading many companies to start their search for holiday workers earlier than usual in the autumn.
On top of the tight labor market, the Trump administration’s reluctance to expand the H-2B seasonal guest worker visa program was cited by employers as a contributing factor to labor shortages in seasonal industries like travel and tourism last summer. This year, summer employers are seeing their applications for these visas rejected at unusually high rates, resurrecting concerns that these companies won’t be able to find the workers they need. The Denver Post talked to several Colorado employers who are feeling the shortage of H-2Bs:
“It is dire,” said Brad Ahl, who helps firms apply for visas as president of Windsor-based Labor Solutions Inc. Historically low unemployment rates and worsening labor shortages across a growing number of industries and states are pushing more employers to seek help outside U.S. borders.
But the cap of 66,000 visas hasn’t changed since the 1990s, and the climate around immigration and the use of foreign workers is politically charged. “The biggest thing that makes this year different is the sheer demand for visas,” said John McMahon, executive director of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado. …
The federal government received requests for 82,000 visas on Jan. 1, compared with 24,000 requests that came in on the first day of 2017. In all, more than 144,000 visa requests have come in for the 33,000 slots, McMahon said.