Demand for labor is at historic levels, with job postings in nearly all sectors above the prepandemic baseline. So where are all the job seekers? Surprisingly, many unemployed workers are not rushing to find a job right now, citing care responsibilities at home, employed spouses and financial cushions as some of the reasons. Above all, however, job seekers say their biggest concern is still COVID-19. 

“This just goes to show that we want to be done with COVID-19, but COVID-19 is not done with us,” says Indeed Economist AnnElizabeth Konkel. 

This means employers must stand out from the crowd to attract job candidates. Besides applying typical best practices to their hiring, many companies are also starting to offer job seekers hiring incentives, such as signing bonuses, retention bonuses and cash incentives. 

To learn more about the state of hiring incentives and what this means for job seekers and employers, we spoke with AnnElizabeth about her research into the subject

What are the key findings?

The share of job postings advertising hiring incentives, such as signing bonuses, retention bonuses and cash incentives, has doubled since last July. Through the seven days ending June 18, 4.1% of Indeed job postings advertised hiring incentives, compared to the 1.8% share in the seven days ending July 1, 2020.

Graph: More postings are advertising hiring incentives
Line graph titled “More postings are advertising hiring incentives.” With a vertical axis ranging from 0% to 5%, Indeed tracked the share of job postings that advertise hiring incentives along a horizontal axis ranging from July 1, 2020, to June 13, 2021. As of June 13, 2021, 4.0% of Indeed job postings advertised hiring incentives, more than double compared to July 1, 2020, when the share was 1.8%.

While these types of job postings still account for only a minority of job ads, “it just shows that the demand for labor is definitely picking up,” says AnnElizabeth. Employers are eager to attract top talent right now by offering a little something extra to candidates. 

This growth in job postings with hiring incentives applies across different sectors, including childcare and driving. Driving has the highest share, with 16% mentioning signing bonuses in the seven days ending June 18, 2021. These mostly apply to truck drivers, as well as a smaller percentage of delivery drivers.

Table: Hiring incentives rising across most sectors
Table titled “Hiring incentives rising among most sectors.” Indeed compared the share of job postings on Indeed with hiring incentives, across various sectors, listing the share as of January 1, 2021, June 13, 2021, and the percentage point change between the two dates. The rise of hiring incentives is relatively widespread across sectors.

“Before the pandemic, there were already whispers of trucking shortages, particularly around long-haul trucking,” says AnnElizabeth. “The pandemic may have exacerbated that.” 

Hiring incentives are also appearing more often in the personal care and home health sector. Postings in this field noting incentives jumped to 9.1% in the seven days ending June 18 from 5.9% in the comparable period ending Jan. 1. Surprisingly, only 1.8% of hospitality and tourism and 3.1% of food preparation and service postings mentioned hiring incentives despite well-publicized stories about worker shortages in these areas.

Graph: Job seeker searches for hiring incentives spike
Line graph titled “Job seeker searches for hiring incentives spike.” With a vertical axis ranging from 0 to 250, Indeed tracked the share of searches per million for hiring incentives along a horizontal axis ranging from January 1, 2021, to June 14, 2021. As of June 14, 2021, searches for hiring incentives per million job searches on Indeed jumped 131% compared to January 1, 2021.

Job seekers are receptive to these job ads. In fact, job searches for hiring incentives have jumped 134% since the beginning of this year, indicating that job seekers are aware of them and are interested in finding a job that offers a little extra to get them to sign up to a new role. 

What does this mean for job seekers?

For job seekers, the rise in jobs offering hiring incentives means they are able to be more selective when picking their next job. Job seekers know their options and will not necessarily take the first offer they receive. Hiring incentives can be especially important to those who have been impacted by the pandemic, allowing them to boost their emergency funds or pay necessary bills. 

Employers are aware of this, and some job postings go a step further by acknowledging the impact of the pandemic on households. A few job postings offering hiring incentives mentioned state-level return-to-work programs; others have noted that expanded federal unemployment benefits are ending soon. A few are offering additional bonuses to those vaccinated against COVID-19. 

What does this mean for employers?

Employers are adjusting to the shortage of talent by using creative ways to attract workers. This is happening across a large swath of sectors. Hiring incentives can be a good strategy for attracting job seekers without impacting employers long term, as they are attention-getting but typically only a one-time cost. This means they represent a smaller investment for employers than, for instance, raising wages or offering more paid time off. 

Incentive amounts can vary widely depending on the employer for job postings that spell out a hiring incentive dollar amount in the job title. In the month ending June 18, food preparation and service jobs offered incentives ranging from $100 to $2,500, while in nursing, incentives ranged from $100 all the way up to $30,000. Of course, geography and job type influence how much an employer is willing to offer. 

Employers who are unable to offer monetary incentives to workers can take a different approach, such as highlighting the perks of the job in the job description. Perks are the extra, nice-to-have incentives offered at your company. These can include things like paid time off, transportation subsidies, free food and drinks, fitness and wellness perks and any kind of stipend or reimbursement the company offers.

Of course, perks can’t be used as a bandage for good company culture — but when they’re treated as the cherry on top, 68% of employees think perks are just as important as health care coverage and other traditional job benefits.

For employers struggling to find talent, it may be time to start offering hiring incentives. As the demand for talent picks up, offering hiring incentives can be a powerful way to stand out from the crowd and attract and retain talented workers.