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Washington DC Association/Nonprofit Job Market Update (Mid May 2020)

Posted by Bob Corlett on May 13, 2020

This is the third of our periodic observations on the local Washington DC association and nonprofit job market. (We handle more senior staff searches than most executive search firms, so after completing 800 searches we know how the job market typically looks.)

Current Situation with Employers

Job Openings: In the past month, we have begun to see a smattering of layoffs in our sector. Typically these affect a small number of people. The far more common situation (only when organizations are facing a steep decline in revenues) is a hiring freeze to hold the line on budgets until things stabilize. As a result of this caution, there was a large drop in advertised job postings. But in the past week, we've seen about 35 new association and nonprofit jobs posted, so this might be back on the upswing. (In theory, with more candidates chasing fewer job postings, this should lead to an increase in the numbers of people applying to each ad, but that’s not what we’re seeing.)

Office Openings: Every organization is deep in the planning process for when and how they will reopen their offices. Opening dates are still an elusive target. We are hearing statements phrased as no earlier than mid-June, or perhaps July 4th. But all this is dependent on the government decisions being made in DC, VA and MD. Employers draw their employees from some heavily impacted areas, and there are liability and safety issues when employees must travel from one jurisdiction to another. We know of at least two organizations that have elected to stay closed through December of 2020 to reduce risk and support families with kids who may not be able to return to a normal school or daycare schedule. Many other factors are involved in the reopening decisions including the success of remote work plans, the number of people working in the office building, and the physical ability to achieve social distancing (in an open-office floor plan for example). Moody’s Analytics has issued a report that examined the economic potential to recover from the shutdowns. The report named DC as one of the 10 cities best positioned to recover quickly from the pandemic.

Finances: The pandemic’s effect on revenues has been very uneven. Some organizations and industry sectors are doing well, and others are hard hit. Until organizations have a handle on reopening locally, and until the public health crisis is under control nationally, it will be difficult for some organizations to deliver services or schedule new revenue-producing meetings. For many organizations, this will have a significant impact on budgets going into 2021 and beyond. For other groups, in-person service delivery and in-person meetings are not a key revenue driver. As with everything else in this pandemic, your mileage may vary.

The ongoing rounds of government spending are starting to ripple through the regional economy. This will only accelerate as trillions of dollars of additional spending are approved. Government spending has always buffered our regional economy during prior downturns, and we expect this time will be no different.

New Hiring: Some organizations are less impacted by the pandemic, or are receiving new sources of funding, so we continue to launch new searches in the virtual environment. At the senior staff levels, the local DC job market is only slightly less competitive now as compared to last year. With national unemployment rates temporarily hovering at Great Depression levels, we were a bit surprised to see only a slight uptick (5-10%) in our candidate engagement rates—just a few more candidates considering a new opportunity relative to earlier in the year. I think that is a sign that very few people have been laid off. In our sector, we are still seeing candidates considering multiple job offers. We're not seeing desperation from most candidates, nor any willingness to accept lower salaries.

For essential positions, with few exceptions, our searches have moved forward to offer and acceptance. This has been true even when a hiring freeze was previously announced. (The definition of “essential” varies widely between organizations.)

Happily, our clients have been uniformly successful with their virtual onboarding efforts, so that should not hamper their ability to hire additional new staff. (But it sure kept HR teams busy.)

Current Situation with Job Seekers

When we contact candidates who are currently working, we are seeing no significant change in their willingness to speak with us. It appears that most people are keeping their options open, and are not unduly fearful of changing jobs (as long as they are able to work remotely and are confident that the sources of revenue for their potential new employer are secure).

Our Status at Staffing Advisors

Because we have always been a fully remote company, we've had no interruptions in our operations and are continuing to interview candidates as normal. Our clients are becoming increasingly comfortable with virtual interviewing and we're continually developing new resources to support them.

Current Openings

Topics: Job Market, For Profit Company Management