The State of the U.S. Job Seeker: April COVID-19 Edition

A new ZipRecruiter survey reveals the vast breadth of COVID-19’s impact on job seekers but also that many are highly motivated to pursue new employment opportunities

In most U.S. states, unemployment benefits will exceed average annual incomes thanks to additional $600 weekly payments set aside in the  CARES Act and to be paid through the end of July. Some observers have worried that the generosity of the payments could discourage unemployed Americans from looking for work. 

But a new ZipRecruiter survey of 2,532 U.S. job seekers finds that 87% say they are likely or very likely to apply for work now; 62% describe their need for a new job as urgent or extremely urgent; and 54% say the need for income is their top motivating factor. Backlogs of unemployment insurance claims and technical glitches delaying the disbursement of benefits may be a contributing factor. The sheer scale of the economic shock many households are experiencing may be another.

Job seekers are highly motivated 

Majorities of job seekers said they are actively looking at job sites multiple times per week and plan to apply for new jobs. The men and women in the sample were equally motivated, but there were some gender differences in job search attitudes. The women surveyed were significantly more likely than the men to be searching for part-time rather than full-time jobs, and the men were significantly more likely to rank salaried pay as their top motivation for seeking a job now.  

Among the small minority of job seekers (5%) who said they are unlikely to look for a job in the current economic and public health climate, the main reason cited for their reluctance was uncertainty about whether employers are actually hiring. To help job seekers identify serious opportunities and become confident actors in the marketplace, ZipRecruiter has added an “Actively Hiring During COVID-19” banner to jobs where employers have verified that they are extending offers during the coronavirus.

Layoffs, hour cuts, and pay cuts 

Of the 1,779 survey respondents who were employed in February prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, only 27% still had the same working hours and wages in mid-April. 50% had been laid off or furloughed, and the remaining 23% had either seen their working hours fall or their wages fall, or both. In most cases, the reductions in working hours and wages reported were substantial. The average hour cut reported was 54% and the average pay cut reported was 57%. 

In the space of just three weeks, the percentage of survey respondents reporting having been laid off has risen by more than ten percentage points, with increased layoffs affecting workers across education levels. 

31% of respondents who said they were laid off due to COVID-19 said they expect to be recalled to their jobs. 90% of them said they are actively looking at job sites multiple times per week and 85% said they were likely or very likely to apply for new jobs nonetheless. 

Methodology: Findings are based on a survey of 2,532 U.S. job seekers who logged into ZipRecruiter job seeker accounts between April 15 and April 20, 2020. March findings are based on a survey of 4,484 U.S. job seekers who logged into ZipRecruiter job seeker accounts between March 25 and March 31, 2020.

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Julia Pollak

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Julia Pollak is a labor economist at ZipRecruiter. She provides insights and analysis on current labor market trends and the future of work.

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