Pandemic Unemployment Benefits Have Ended. But You’re Still Struggling to Fill Openings

An ironic thing happened in September 2021. Extended unemployment benefits ended, yet the labor shortage — which was expected to ease as a result of the benefits coming to a close —showed no signs of letting up.

As a result, HR professionals have continued to struggle with one of the toughest hiring environments in recent history. For comparison, the total number of job openings in the U.S. in May 2021 increased 33% compared to the fourth quarter of 2019 (the last quarter of “normalcy” prior to the pandemic disrupting the business world).

And while the pandemic has played a role in fostering a competitive talent landscape, the hiring challenges HR leaders are facing today started well before the pandemic. The talent shortage has largely been driven by an aging workforce which has resulted in fewer experienced workers to choose from, and a skills shortage that has plagued tech and other industries. These challenges were only exacerbated by COVID-19 as workers left the workforce entirely, or opted to pivot their career to work in the industries that continued to hire during the lockdowns.

The problem didn’t let up as we emerged from the most restrictive phases of COVID-19; many businesses have struggled as people started quitting their jobs at record levels for a variety of reasons, making retention — and the meaningful benefits that keep employees around — as important as hiring.

At this point, economists can only speculate why that is. They need more time and data to make concrete conclusions. But many point to the worries over the Delta variant causing a reluctance to return to work just as firms are ramping back up.

Whatever the reasons, you, as an HR professional, have to deal with competing for talented staffers right now. In addition, you may also need to focus on retaining the talent you have or are hiring now.

Human resources leaders know that hiring and retaining the very best talent is key to the success of their companies. At critical times like this, it’s important to review and perhaps enhance your employee value proposition (EVP).

Your EVP is what sets you and your company apart in the hiring process. Are you going well beyond wages to attract the most talented and loyal employees? Is your benefits package doing a good job of communicating the values and culture of your organization? Importantly, is a clear devotion to employee financial wellness a top priority? Employees are more aware than ever that EVP means far more than the bottom line on a bi-monthly paycheck and are looking for opportunities that stand out as unique, holistic, and employee-centered.

To answer these questions and more, take a look at the following three areas to make sure your EVP is ready for post-pandemic hiring and retention.


Yes, this means wages and salaries. Rising wages are a fact of life in post-pandemic workforces. According to the CNBC Global CFO Council survey for the third quarter of 2021, about 90% of U.S. CFOs say their companies are raising wages.

But, as HR professionals well know, compensation also entails healthcare coverage, retirement plan matches, and other meaningful financial wellness benefits such as student loan repayment plans and emergency savings programs. Both of these last two benefits have been focuses lately, as workers struggle with the impact of COVID on their daily budgets and the end of the pause on federal student loan payments coming in February.

Are you offering paychecks, healthcare benefits, and financial wellness programs that compete with those of others in your industry and are relevant in a pandemic environment?

Work-Life Balance

This has always been a top-line EVP issue, but the pandemic has brought it into high relief. People moving out of urban areas, new parents, or those having to home-school, and health and safety jeopardized by COVID-19 and the Delta variant all make work, although still vital, a less important priority for many Americans.

After months of working from home and, for some employees, being home with their kids, flexible hours, remote work options, flexible paid parental leave, and time-sharing have all taken on new importance.

Review your leave and PTO options. Are you as flexible as you need to be? Do you offer PTO swap options? Are your childcare benefits top of the line?

Continued Learning and Training

If you’re going to keep your workers loyal, they’ve got to see a bright future at your company. That means learning and training on the job. Now that’s likely to be in a remote setting. Have you adjusted your training programs to meet the needs of remote workers? Are career development resources accessible to all employees, including onsite, remote, and hybrid? Are you doing your best to build a team culture, despite the challenges of a fully or partially remote workforce?

The Takeaway

Your employee value proposition is the heart and soul of your human resources strategy. SoFi at Work can offer you the platforms and information that will help build the benefits you need to create a successful and loyal workforce.

Learn More

Photo credit: iStock/MesquitaFMS

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Walecia Konrad ABOUT Walecia Konrad Walecia Konrad is an award winning financial journalist and content producer specializing in health care and personal finance. She has held staff jobs at and contributed to several media outlets including The New York Times, Money, SmartMoney, BusinessWeek, NerdWallet and She currently develops content, including web, video, print and social media, for several financial services companies.

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