This report shares insights from interviews with 29 employers in the manufacturing and leisure and hospitality sectors in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware on how they are addressing staffing challenges in a labor market with historically low unemployment and a high volume of job openings. These sectors are an important source of employment for workers without a four-year degree.

The findings include:

  • Employers painted a picture of hiring and retention challenges that were exacerbated by the pandemic. Staff experienced increased levels of stress and burnout, and businesses made a variety of adjustments to try to attract and retain employees.
  • Most employers in our study said they’d raised wages and considered it an effective tactic, albeit one that drove payroll costs higher.
  • Many employers used employee referrals and attempted to recruit from new groups of workers, some adjusted human resources policies to lower barriers for potential candidates, but fewer took steps to improve job quality.
  • Our analysis of additional data also suggests that smaller firms may face more difficulties responding to workers’ changing demands.

Although it offers no quick fixes or one-size-fits-all solutions, the report can serve as a resource for employers seeking to learn how their peers are addressing staffing challenges and the approaches they are finding to be more — or less — effective.

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