Recruitment Sentiment Analysis: Are We Heading for a Recession?

Recruiting professionals have keen insight into trends affecting labor, productivity, and the inputs and outputs that comprise the global workforce. Any time that you assemble a group of thinkers and doers who deal primarily with other human beings, assessing their motivations for decision-making, the end result is a fascinating interplay between perception and reality.

In this year’s GRID, we asked a complex sentiment question of all of our global respondents. We gave them the choice to agree, disagree, or have no opinion on a whopping ten statements. What’s interesting is that we obviously didn’t pull these statements out of thin air - we included them as hypotheses that have been directionally proven in multiple research studies and industry surveys throughout the year. In other words, each statement we posed boasts several credible research bodies that believe the claim to already be fact.

Two of these statements involve diversity specifically - first, “there is a diversity problem in recruitment,” and secondly, “diverse organizations are more effective than others.” I’ve gone into detail around these findings in a spotlight on diversity, but long story short, recruiting professionals generally don’t think that diversity is a problem in our industry, and the majority believe that diversity is something towards which we ought to strive.

The other sentiments we assessed, however, were arguably just as interesting. I won’t go into depth around the majority of these, nor will I dive into geographic or role cuts because our data is organized in such a way to empower you to take this analysis into your own hands, but on a basic level, one major finding really jumped out at us. It was around whether or not we’ll see a recession in 2019.

Economists have spent the second half of 2018 debating as to whether or not we’re on the verge of a global recession, and how big that verge is: will it happen in 2019? In 2020? Post-2020, after a U.S. election cycle? Will Brexit trigger it? A rise in U.S. interest rates? Will Italy’s budget woes be the straw that breaks the camel’s back? Is protectionism in the U.S. and the UK and resulting trade disputes going to help or hurt these regions’ economies in the long run? We have no idea. Truly - the smartest people in the world don’t even know.

One thing is certain, however. The timing could be right for a recession to hit. The International Monetary Fund is sounding alarm bells, with deputy managing director David Lipton stating, “As we have put it, ‘fix the roof while the sun shines’. But, like many of you, I see storm clouds building and fear the work on crisis prevention is incomplete.”

Recruiting professionals who took the GRID survey don’t agree. Only 30 percent feel that a recession in 2019 is imminent, with 50 percent disagreeing, and 20 percent not stating an opinion. What this suggests is that recruiters know that we’re in the midst of a historically unprecedented global talent shortage, and a labor market so tight that reskilling has become a huge rallying cry for the entire industry (indeed, 74 percent of respondents agree that “reskilling candidates is an effective way to address talent shortages”).

50% of survey respondents do not believe a recession is imminent in 2019.

78% of survey respondents think employers must accelerate pay increases in order to compete for qualified talent

Recessions mean that people lose jobs, and that labor pools flood open, and that it’s easy to find talent. Nothing about the challenges that recruiters currently face would suggest that this shortage will be relieved anytime soon, which supports the conclusion, at least directionally, that a recession does not loom. Case in point, another sentiment we assessed was around worker compensation in light of the talent shortage. And 78 percent of respondents agree that “employers must accelerate pay increases in order to compete for qualified candidates.”

It’s not an optimistic rationale for why a recession may not happen, but it makes sense. Unfortunately, we worry that the talent shortage is a lagging indicator. We’ll have to hope that we can both maintain economic growth while also investing in programs such as reskilling to help make recruiting firms’ work easier and more prosperous.

Learn more about what global recruitment professionals have to say about their top priorities and top challenges for 2019. 

Top Priorities
Discover the top priorities for recruitment professionals in 2019.
Top Challenges
See what recruiting leaders have to say about their top challenges for 2019.

Vinda Souza

Vice President, Global Communications


Vinda Souza leads Bullhorn’s global public relations, analyst relations, content marketing, social media, strategic thought leadership, events content, and internal communications strategy. A technology PR pro by trade, Vinda also manages Bullhorn’s strategic positioning with influencers and industry associations. She sits on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Staffing Association and the American Staffing Association’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force.