Thaddeus Swanek Thaddeus Swanek
Senior Writer and Editor, Strategic Communications, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


November 29, 2021


Many Americans who lost their job during the pandemic—and remain unemployed—are not actively searching for work, according to a new U.S. Chamber poll. In fact, 45% feel they can remain out of work for six months or more before it becomes essential to return to a full-time job. The lack of people actively seeking work is a major factor contributing to the ongoing workforce shortage, leaving employers looking for ways to adapt their recruiting and retention practices to attract the talent they need.

To be sure, the new post-pandemic workforce looks very different than the pre-pandemic one, and what employees expect from jobs has changed dramatically as a result. Money is still important, of course, but it isn't just about money anymore. Hybrid work schedules, reskilling and upskilling training, a positive work environment, and other factors all play an important role in people's decision to go back to work or not.

Based on research and polls conducted by the Chamber, here are four ways businesses can improve their recruiting and retention practices to make their workplace an attractive one for current employees as well as those still undecided about re-entering the workforce.

Help Workers Find Affordable, Quality Childcare

The poll revealed nearly a quarter (24%) of Americans who lost their job during the pandemic, and remain unemployed, say that a top reason they have not returned to work is the need to be home to offer care to others. That percentage jumps to 31% for women respondents.

Access to high quality, affordable childcare has been increasingly difficult to come by during the pandemic, leaving many caretakers more likely to stay out of, or leave, the workforce. To address the people-jobs gap, there must be a commitment to solutions for working parents.

One way to bring workers back who are caring for young children is partnering with other organizations to offer nearby, affordable childcare. Or—if the company has enough resources—to offer onsite childcare itself.

“Childcare is the sticky glue that holds all of our communities together,” says Allessandra Lezama, CEO of TOOTRiS, a small business that provides that provides childcare options for employers and parents.

A lack of childcare is not only a barrier to employment but is also costly for the economy. A new U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation study found that state economies lost between $100 million and $10 billion this year because of childcare issues. Through the America Works initiative, the U.S. Chamber is urging Federal, state, and local officials to work with the private sector to streamline and provide support for the expansion of childcare

Offer Hybrid Work Schedules

More employers are offering flexible work schedules (which may also help bring back some of the caregivers mentioned above). According to the U.S. Chamber poll, the second most popular incentive that would increase the urgency for the unemployed to return to full-time employment is flexible work hours (43%).

And increasingly, employers can’t afford to go without it. There is mounting evidence that workers view flexible work schedules as an important benefit that may lead them to take one job over another. One HR expert has said  businesses that don’t offer any flexible-work options could be losing out on up to 70% of jobseekers.

Offering flexible schedules was a close runner up to the most popular incentive in the poll: 46% said a hiring bonus of $1,000 would increase their likelihood to return to the workforce.

Invest in Training and Upskilling New Hires

Some employers are looking to bring back workers, or find new ones, by offering to upskill or train new hires as part of their hiring package.

Today, many workers are looking to not only change jobs, but to change industries. According to the poll, nearly a third (32%) of unemployed workers said they would prefer to work in a different industry for their next job.

Seek Out Recruits from Traditionally Overlooked Talent Pools

According to the U.S. Chamber poll, although the majority (53%) of those surveyed are not actively and consistently seeking work, the percentage of Americans that are has gone up since this poll was last conducted in May. Now, 47% say they are actively searching for a new job, up from 32% in May.

Still, the worker gap persists with 10.4 million open jobs, and just 7.6 million unemployed workers to fill them—leaving a shortage of almost three million workers.

One way to address this gap is to for employers to seek and cultivate candidates from historically underserved talent pools such as minority groups and veterans. Black Americans are out of work at almost twice the rate of their white counterparts, indicating there is a large opportunity to find workers with a slightly different approach to recruitment. Diverse hiring practices can include posting job ads on sites targeting underrepresented populations, employing blind hiring techniques, or using a panel interview in the hiring process. 

In addition, veterans are often an overlooked, highly qualified pool of talent. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes Fellowship programs let companies explore the tremendous value that veterans and military spouses can bring participating in HOH’s Fellowship Programs.

The U.S. Chamber and the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s America Works initiative is mobilizing industry and government to swiftly address America’s deepening worker shortage crisis. Discover workforce solutions, find additional research and analysis, and explore the full America Works policy agenda at

Bringing back the missing three million missing workers will not happen overnight. But with adaptability on the side of employers and employees—we can get America back to work and the economy firing on all cylinders again. Now’s the time!

About the authors

Thaddeus Swanek

Thaddeus Swanek

Thaddeus is a senior writer and editor with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's strategic communications team.

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