According to job market lore, January offers the most opportunity for job seekers since hiring managers have all returned from their holiday vacations and budgets have been set for the year.
It’s true that January is an incredibly busy month for hiring. In January 2018, the number of new jobs posted on ZipRecruiter increased 57% from December, which was the largest monthly increase in job postings in all of 2018. The same seasonal trend occurred in January of 2017 when postings grew 78% from December—also the largest monthly growth all year.
But there’s a catch. Owing, perhaps, to new year’s resolutions, or maybe because people wait to quit until they get their year-end bonus (or find out they won’t be getting one), our data show job seekers are also out in full force in January. So much so that it is historically one of the most competitive months of the year to find a job.
Applicants on ZipRecruiter increased 26% from December 2017 to January 2018, 30% from December to January 2017, and 19% from December to January 2016. Just like with job openings, the largest monthly gain in applicants each year occurs in January.
More Jobs, Less Competition in February
Rather than piling in with everyone else in January, our research shows job seekers have the best shot at getting the job they desire by waiting to apply until February.
Both in February of 2018 and 2017, the total number of active jobs on the ZipRecruiter platform continued to increase while the number of applicants declined. In February 2018, jobs were up 3% while applicants were down 9% month over month. The trend was even more pronounced in 2017 when the number of active job openings grew 13% over January and applicants declined 9%.
As businesses continue to grow well into a new year, and the talent pool shrinks with every new hire, many companies struggle to fill all of their openings within the latter half of the first quarter. Job openings are in such great abundance in January that even with the attendant flood of applicants there is still more hiring to do heading into February and even March.
“There’s no question February has been a very strong month for job seekers in the past few years,” said ZipRecruiter Labor Economist Julia Pollak. “But this February may prove to be one of the strongest on record. The recent government shutdown forced many employers to hold off on hiring since e-verify—the federally funded system used to determine employment eligibility—was inoperable. With the lights back on in Washington, tenuous though the deal may be, we are likely to see a surge of new openings and hires in the coming weeks.”