We hear it over and over again — this is a historically tight market for hiring. And with unemployment so low, it would make sense to think that everyone is facing hiring challenges. But the economy is complex, and blanket statements about difficulties being the same for all industries are rarely true. Such is the case with hiring in today’s market. Though some employers are certainly struggling to find talent, the challenges of filling open roles aren’t uniform across all industries and for some, hiring is relatively easier.

We sat down with Indeed economist Nick Bunker to learn more. We wanted to know which industries are facing the greatest hiring challenges right now and what this means for employers and job seekers.

Table showing 13 separate industry sectors and the hires per job opening for each available job per month.
This table features 13 industry sectors and the hire per job opening percentages related to each industry per month. “Education and health services” is the industry having the hardest time filling open roles, hiring only 0.53 workers per every 100 open roles in a month. “Leisure and hospitality” is having the easiest time hiring, hiring 1.09 workers for every 100 job openings in a month. The following industries fill out the middle of the table: “Financial activities” (0.63), “Durable goods manufacturing” (0.64), “Transportation, warehousing and utilities” (0.67), “Wholesale trade” (0.68), “Information” (0.74), “Nondurable goods manufacturing” (0.83), “Mining and logging” (0.85), “Other services” (0.88), “Professional and business services” (0.88), “Retail trade” (0.94) and “Construction” (1.05).

What are the key findings?

There’s no doubt: low unemployment makes it harder for lots of employers. With fewer unemployed workers, it’s just harder to fill open roles. But Nick confirmed our suspicions, “Over time it's gotten harder for everyone, but there are industries that are having a relatively easier time hiring.”

Nick used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to analyze how different sectors are feeling the labor market crunch. The hires per job opening numbers show how many hires are made for each available job in a month. So, for education and health services, for example, out of every 100 job openings, only 53 were filled that month.

Education and health services topped the list as the industry having the hardest time filling open roles. Contributing to this is one of the tightest labor markets in the U.S. — healthcare workers. Shortages among healthcare workers are largely due to increasing healthcare needs accompanied by the quickly retiring baby boomers that work in this field. 

On the other end of the spectrum, we find industries like construction and leisure and hospitality, where employers are having an easier time filling roles, with more workers than available jobs. In the case of construction, it may be that recent increases in construction wages, compared to other jobs, have drawn more workers to the field.

What does this mean for employers?

Depending on what sector you’re in, your recent experiences with hiring may be very different. For some roles, employers are swimming in quality applicants, while for others it may feel like pulling teeth to get a qualified candidate to apply. Understanding what’s going on in your sector at large can help make sense of hiring efforts and know what to expect.

And though hiring has gotten more difficult overall, employers are not powerless in the face of this trend. Nick advises “you have to make your jobs more attractive to job seekers, whether it’s through higher wages or other benefits you can offer to workers.”

For jobs with limited ability to use pay to attract and retain talent, it’s time to think creatively. Providing things like professional development and investing in training or company culture — for example, getting the company and employees involved in the community — will help attract job seekers. 

What does this mean for job seekers?

Low unemployment means workers are in-demand. This is even truer in the industries with the most job openings. According to Nick, “Job seekers have more bargaining power than they did in the recent past. And this includes not only those looking for new jobs, but at their current jobs.”

In industries with low hires per job opening, job seekers are in the driving seat. For example, in a field like transportation, one company is not the only option, as there are plenty of open jobs for job seekers in this field.

And for workers already working in high-demand roles? It might be time to negotiate for the things that are important to you. After all, there aren’t hordes of people ready to fill your shoes.

Finally, for workers having a hard time, it might be time to consider a career switch. Nick feels healthcare, in particular, is a good bet.  “If you’re up for changing careers, there are signs showing us that healthcare is a strong field — it’s a good opportunity now and in the future.”

Regardless of whether this labor market has made your life a challenge or a cakewalk, understanding how hiring trends differ by industry will help both employers and job seekers make the best decisions for their future.