- The labor market is hot, but about six million Americans who want to work are still unemployed.
- That’s because companies often overlook certain groups of talent.
- Those “willing to overcome deep-rooted beliefs about how work should be done” will have an advantage, one expert said.
As of May, there were about six million people looking for work in the US.
Another 5.7 million people have given up the search but still want to a job. However, businesses still say they’re struggling to recruit and retain workers amid the ongoing labor shortage.
One reason could be that some of these businesses are leaving out certain groups of job candidates.
Formerly incarcerated, retired people looking to get back to work, and people with disabilities could be the answer to businesses’ hiring woes, Daniel Zhao, senior economist and data scientist at Glassdoor, previously told Insider. It could be a talent pool of more than 117 million potential workers.
As of May, there were 536,000 people with a disability age 16 and over unemployed; there were over 70 million Americans that have a criminal record according to a report published in 2020; and there were over 47 million retired workers receiving Social Security benefits as of April.
In a hot labor market, these groups of workers “tend to see more job opportunities,” Zhao said. And in a time when remote work has become more common, people who require accommodations or may feel uncomfortable in an office setting are even more able to find work from companies nationwide. And yet experts say businesses consistently overlook talent pools they aren’t familiar with — even though they could be the answer to their staffing crisis.
“Organizations willing to overcome deep-rooted beliefs about how work should be done — and who should be doing it — will have an advantage in this war for talent,” Robin Erickson, vice president of human capital at The Conference Board said per a press release about talent strategies for employers amid the global labor shortage. “Hiring from underutilized groups will not only expand the candidate pool — it will expand the diversity of thought and experience within your organization.”
Discrimination still reigns when it comes to hiring practices
Other groups of job seekers that tend to be overlooked are migrants, refugees, and college students, per a press release from The Conference Board. Indeed’s Abbey Carlton previously told Insider that people who don’t have a college education and “opportunity youth”, or those who are between 16 and 24 years old who are not in school or work, are two other group of job seekers who tend to be underutilized.
“It has always been the case that it is much harder for that group to gain a foothold in the labor market,” Carlton said about those considered opportunity youth.
According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, the employment-population ratio of people without disabilities has been about three times higher than the ratio of people with disabilities for at least a decade based on available data.
“So when people talk about why can’t I find anybody to work for me or et cetera, there are people who want to be employed,” Mia Ives-Rublee, director for the disability justice initiative at Center for American Progress, previously told Insider. “The problems remain around discrimination, barriers to being able to apply and obtain a job, and the ability to maintain a job.”
Job candidates and workers with disabilities may also face barriers that make it harder in their job search or at the workplace.
“When it comes to getting employed, there are barriers in the recruitment, hiring, and retention phase of employment,” Josh Basile, community-relations manager for the accessibility firm accessiBe, previously said.
One analysis from Indeed finds that there has been a higher share of searches for terms related to fair chance hiring, as more and more job postings note this. However, the share of job postings that do note fair chance hiring is still low based on Indeed data. AnnElizabeth Konkel, economist at Indeed Hiring Lab, and author of the report told Insider that the analysis shows “tight labor market is helping pull in groups of workers who are often overlooked.”
Experts have previously shared with Insider the benefits of reaching out to these underutilized groups of talent and just how to do so. For instance, those looking to attract more workers who have criminal records or have been formerly incarcerated, can join the “Ban the Box” campaign, according to Deb Alderson, CEO of ViaPath Technologies. They can also offer returnship programs as one way to attract unretiring workers, according to Tami Forman, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Path Forward.
Remote work options can be another attractive work model for some job seekers with disabilities.
“I’ve read a couple different pieces about how remote work has been quite beneficial for individuals with disabilities because they can be in a more comfortable environment in their home and have whatever setup they need,” Konkel said.
But even though remote work has become common for some US workers since the pandemic first started, Moeena Das, the chief operating officer of the National Organization on Disability, previously told Insider that people with disabilities have been advocating for flexible work, including working from home, before the pandemic so that the workplace could be more accessible.
“At the end of the day, employers want to be able to fill the positions that they have,” Konkel previously told Insider. “They want to be able to get enough workers to be able to meet consumer demand, and exploring untapped pools of talent is one way to hopefully get the workers that they need.”