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Where the Talent Resides: U.S. Hiring Trends Amid COVID-19

Erica Ruder • 3/25/2021
As short-term shelter-in-place measures morphed into long-term work-from-home scenarios for many “non-essential” office workers, employee migration and corresponding hiring patterns began to shift.

Talent Resides Talent Resides

When COVID-19 hit the United States in March 2020, office-based employers pivoted to a remote work model globally, and hiring activity dropped sharply as companies adjusted their hiring plans to accommodate the new normal. As short-term shelter-in-place measures morphed into long-term work-from-home scenarios for many “non-essential” office workers, employee migration and corresponding hiring patterns began to shift.  

Given these shifts, employers are now asking: Where does the top talent reside?    

Figure 1: Office-using Job Postings Time Trend

Talent Chart 1

Job posting data is critical piece of puzzle    
A critical piece of the talent location puzzle, job postings, present a leading indicator for market performance. Leveraging Emsi data, which tracks unique job postings by job title, company and market, Cushman & Wakefield analyzed hiring activity and trends for office-user job profiles over this past year. We specifically examined corporate, technology and call center profiles across several large U.S. markets.   

Figure 2: Interactive Map of Job Posting Activity for Office-based Roles in Select Markets 
Click the cities below to view their respective job posting activity details. 

Sources: Emsi Job Posting Analytics;C&W Methodology

Figure 2 reflects select markets that experienced some of the higher volumes of job posting activity. NOTE: This is not an exhaustive list.

While the long-term impact on corporate location decisions has yet to be determined, the data suggests that the pre-pandemic labor migration shifts have accelerated and job posting activity has trended upwards for many office-user profiles.

Opportunity zones in U.S. labor markets
There hasn’t been a one-size-fits-all recovery across the U.S. markets. Certain markets are emerging as clear opportunity zones for tech and corporate occupations, while others demonstrate hiring growth for sales and call center roles. From 2010 to late 2019, U.S. markets experienced low unemployment rates and a subsequently high increase in job postings across all studied office-user profiles. Sunbelt markets such as Austin and Nashville exhibited an even higher job posting growth rate compared to coastal and Midwest markets.

From April to December 2020, Nashville and Fort Lauderdale showed tremendous hiring increases with posting activity up 20%+ for almost all corporate occupier profiles. In Phoenix, corporate, technology and call center job postings grew by more than 50%. As office workers are less tied to the physical office and able to vote with their feet, these markets are well positioned to capture talent migrating to markets with lower costs, better climates and more favorable policy environments. The increase in job posting activity is likely an indication these markets will recover quickly and lead to more net-new migration, both in population and corporate relocation.

Figure 3: U.S. Markets with Significant Recoveries Following Recession Peak  

Talent Chart 2

Sources: Emsi Job Posting Analytics; C&W Methodology 

Figure 3 represents the percent change in Corporate, Technology and Call Center role job postings over the referenced time period.  Note: The decline in all markets from April to December 2019 reflects the slowdown in hiring activity experienced in late 2019 before the pandemic. 

Other markets have not yet shown the same bounce back in hiring activity. While Austin saw pre-pandemic hiring gains in 2019, it joined Atlanta in seeing a decline in corporate and technology job posting activity since April 2020. Dallas also saw a decline in corporate postings during the same period. While these markets possess several favorable attributes to capture an influx of company and employee relocations, their high levels of hiring for headquarter locations and technology profiles leading up to the pandemic consequently drove a higher cost of living. This rendered alternative cities more competitive to a growing population of homebound workers.  

Other labor migration indicators 
Unwinding the complexity of labor migration to establish hiring plans and inform real estate strategy requires the consideration and expert analysis of a myriad of factors. In addition to job postings, data such as residential real estate activity, utility usage and cell phone tracking from the past year is becoming available. UrbanBound, a leader in relocation management technologies and Cushman & Wakefield supplier, tracks corporate and talent movement across multiple industries.   

“As opportunities arise from the growing trend of relocating corporate operations to locales with a higher return for employers — increased tax incentives, lower cost of living and lower operating and property costs — employees are more open to opportunities outside their current city. Despite current world conditions, UrbanBound continues to rank the tech industry as the largest industry segment to relocate employees within the United States. In fact, with one out of three relocations due to employment opportunity, 11% of those relocations resulted as job pursuits in the tech industry." 

Jeff Ellman, Co-Founder, UrbanBound 

Recent corporate headquarter relocations—such as HP and Oracle moving from the Bay Area to Houston and Austin, respectively—are examples of companies evolving their location strategy in light of the current environment.  Analyzed together, data enables Cushman & Wakefield to better understand the short- and long-term impacts of COVID-19 on migratory patterns and thus expertly advise our clients on future corporate location decisions. 

Where does your talent reside? 
As your organization looks towards re-entry, it is more critical than ever to understand your labor composition and realign your real estate portfolio to capture key talent and support their new ways of working. Cushman & Wakefield’s Strategic Consulting professionals help clients address these changes through extensive expertise and innovative tools in Labor Analytics, Location Strategy, Headquarters Consulting, Workplace Strategy and Portfolio Intelligence.  

Contact a Cushman & Wakefield expert.

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