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September Surge or Bust? That Depends.

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Has the term “September surge” ever seen this much coverage? This purportedly hiring-heavy period, which spans Labor Day to Halloween in the U.S., has been all the rage this year—by which we mean it’s been a big hit, especially on TikTok.

The factors that favor a surge

It’s true, many employers amp up recruitment in the fall. Vacation season is largely over and there about 12 weeks after Labor Day before attention drifts toward the winter holidays. 

If there’s talent budget left to be spent, many HR teams will want to make sure to do so before the year gets too old, lest they have difficulty filling positions in November and December. 

Other organizations simply want people in place and ready, trained, and oriented in time for the New Year. 2024 goals are already in sight!

More ‘meh’ on the hiring front?

Arguing against the September Surge in 2023, some experts said it’s really about certain industries or certain jobs—specifically entry-level ones, according to LinkedIn’s principal economist. The same article exempted tech jobs from the surge, saying that hiring is more likely in January—which is actually the biggest month, current buzzwords notwithstanding.

With a cooling (but not cold!) labor market, organizations weren’t necessarily going all-out to the same degree some had in the past few years. Layoffs and recessionary fears have some companies tapping the brakes on hiring, if not hitting a full stop.

There were other reasons to be concerned about fall staffing. Inflation has taken a toll on families’ spending power, some student loan payments put on hold are restarting, and pandemic savings may be running out. Such issues have outfits like Coresights predicting low single-digit growth in holiday sales over last year. 

The outlook may have affected retail staffing, for example. Accoring to a July 26 report from iCIMIS, a talent cloud company and Asurint partner, hiring in the sector was down 27 percent year over year by summer, and we await fall stats. Transportation represents another question mark with rebounding imports driving optimism but consumer sentiment concerns favoring greater pessimism. 

Some tips for fall hiring

How should HR teams and recruiters handle fall hiring? Here are a few tips we collected:

  1. Recognize that you might see more turnover. Some current employees will likely buy into the September Surge idea. To the extent they spent time updating their resumes and improving their LinkedIn profiles, they may be well positioned to find, well, new positions. You may, in turn, need to backfill before fall comes to a close.
  2. Consider getting in on the action. Have you been struggling to fill certain roles? If great talent now considers fall the time to seek new opportunities, you may want to be out there advertising the ones you have open! Whether you snag some new hires during the official surge or ready yourself for a successful late-year or New Year push, you’ll be happy you got the word out about your employer brand.
  3. Always be prepared. Perception can quickly become reality. All the talk of September surging may lead to a flood of applications—in the fall months and, for workers who didn’t find their dream job, maybe far beyond. You might also see some enhanced competition from others in your industry during this and other peak hiring periods as well. 

The most important point, take fall hiring in stride. Whether you’re staffing up for retail holidays or filling some long-vacant positions now that the labor market is a little more forgiving, most experts underscore that talent acquisition flows in cycles. Whether September turned out to be a boom or bust for your hiring program, you’ll get another turn at the wheel. 

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