The nation may be on the move again but there aren’t enough people to build the machines that move people and products around. Classified collectively as transportation equipment manufacturing jobs there’s a serious dearth of applicants to fill them while automakers, shipbuilders, aviation manufacturers and parts suppliers are scooping up as many of them as they can.
Production positions saw 3% fewer applicants January through June of this year compared with the same period in 2020, while non-production applications are up 15% year over year, according to the iCIMS report.
That’s reflected in how long it takes to fill those jobs. According to the report, non-production positions are filled in an average of 45 days while production jobs are taking an average of 57 days to fill—a difference of 26%.
This means talent for production occupations has been even more scarce than it was last year during the onset of the pandemic, while non-production applications have recovered some ground since then.
Indeed, the number of applicants for manufacturing positions as a whole are lagging other industries. According to the iCIMS report, applications for manufacturing jobs are down 16.7% since 2019 and 8% since the beginning of the year, but have rebounded 3% since May.
Meanwhile, since May, applications in the travel and hospitality industry are up 11%, health services up 8%, retail trade up 7% and financial, real estate and insurance industries up 5%.
Looking specifically at the auto industry, it’s still far behind pre-pandemic manufacturing employment levels. According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 1.01 million people were employed at auto assembly and parts plants in February, 2019. That number dropped to a low point of 626,000 in April, 2020 as the pandemic caused plants to shut down. It since rebounded to about 895,000 in July, accounting, in part, to temporary plant shutdowns caused by the global semiconductor shortage.
To fill both production and non-production openings employers in the overall transportation equipment industry are resorting to a cornucopia of come-ons including signing bonuses, richer benefits, work from home options, even raffles for gifts, according to Moss.
“Even with manufacturing, there’s a very quick acceleration to meet candidates where they are. People who are looking, how do we lock them down faster, make them an offer, make them love us as an employer and then really get them signed and started because right now recruiters are trying to get scrappy and smart and figure it out,” said Moss.
Just how long companies that build planes, trains, automobiles and ships will be stuck trying to find enough applicants for their manufacturing jobs is uncertain. Moss said she couldn’t even hazard a guess on an actual time frame but believed the situation would depend on fluctuations in the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic and its variants and its affect on how people feel about re-entering the workforce.
But as it stands now, for anyone who tosses in an application for a job in an industry that’s all about motion, it would be a pretty good move.
As Moss plainly states, “There are so many more jobs right now than people.”