The Great Recession and The Workplace: Where Are We Six Years Later?

Oct 22, 2013

Skill gaps and recruiting challenges still highly prevalent in large U.S. industries, SHRM survey finds

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — According to industry-specific data from SHRM’s Ongoing Impact of the Recession Poll, 66 percent of all organizations are experiencing difficulty recruiting for specific job openings, compared to 52 percent in the previous year.

This is the third year that SHRM has conducted this survey, which examines how the economic recession has impacted employers in the United States, specifically the finance, health, manufacturing, high-tech, professional services, and construction, mining, oil and gas industries and state/local government and federal government.

“The main reason for these challenges is a skills gap in the employee candidate pool. Prospective employers have doubts about applicants and their ability to perform the job’s required duties particularly when the jobs require new and different skill sets than before,” explained Evren Esen, manager of SHRM’s Survey Research Center.

When organizations that reported recruiting difficulties were asked what basic/knowledge skills were lacking in job applicants, respondents from all industry sectors cited writing in English (55 percent), mathematics (38 percent), reading comprehension (31 percent) and spoken English language (29 percent) at the top of the list. Additionally, about one-half to three-quarters of respondents across all industries (45 to 78 percent) reported difficulty recruiting for completely new positions or positions requiring different skill sets.

Currently, the high-tech, manufacturing, and construction, mining, oil and gas industries are encountering the highest levels of hiring challenges.

Findings from organizations that reported recruiting difficulties:

Health Care

  • Top applied skill gaps: professionalism/work ethic (60 percent), critical thinking/problem solving (59 percent), teamwork/collaboration (40 percent), written communications (39 percent) and leadership (37 percent).
  • Hardest positions to fill: scientists (89 percent), high-skilled medical (82 percent), managers and executives (73 percent), high-skilled technical (72 percent) and engineers (63 percent).


  • Sixteen percent of organizations have hired workers from outside the United States for jobs that were difficult to fill, compared to 5 percent in the previous year.
  • Hardest positions to fill: high-skilled technical (89 percent), managers and executives (85 percent), sales representatives (74 percent), accounting and finance professionals (73 percent) and HR professionals (53 percent).


  • The majority (79 percent) of organizations currently hiring full-time staff indicated recruitment difficulties, an increase from 68 percent in the previous year.
  • Three out of five (60 percent) organizations reported hiring U.S. veterans, an increase from 44 percent in the previous year.

The survey polled more than 3,400 randomly selected SHRM members in eight industries during the early fall of 2012. For more surveys/poll findings, visit Follow SHRM Research on Twitter @SHRM_Research.

Media: For more information or to request an interview, contact Vanessa Gray at 703-535-6072 and or Kate Kennedy of SHRM Public Affairs at 703-535-6260 and

About the Society for Human Resource Management
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. Representing about 260,000 members in more than 140 countries, the Society serves the needs of HR professionals and advances the interests of the HR profession. Founded in 1948, SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China, India and the United Arab Emirates. Visit SHRM Online at and follow us on Twitter @SHRMPress.


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