Employers in Northern Virginia say they’re having a harder time hiring people amid a mixed business outlook.
According to the second annual Northern Virginia Workforce Index, a survey of 237 business leaders released Wednesday by the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce and Northern Virginia Community of College, 71 percent reported it’s been more difficult to fill open positions over the last 12 months compared to the year before.
In a more thorough breakdown of respondents, 32 percent say it’s been much more difficult to hire; 39 percent say it’s more difficult to hire; 24 percent say it’s about the same. Just 3 percent say it’s been easier and only 2 percent say it’s much easier.
The chief reasons cited in the survey are a tight labor market, the cost of labor because of market shortages, and a lack of education and/or professional experience.
The report says the economic outlook is pretty grim as well. Businesses are less optimistic than they were last year.
Thirty-three percent say they’re either “somewhat pessimistic” or “very pessimistic” about Northern Virginia’s economic prospects over the next year. Thirty-eight percent say they’re optimistic.
Last year, three-quarters of respondents said they were at least somewhat optimistic about the economy, with just 10 percent saying they were pessimistic.
Employers are, however, more confident in the ability of their own businesses to perform over the next 12 months: 57 percent say they feel at least somewhat optimistic.
Still, that’s down from last year, when 80 percent said they were optimistic.
“Ongoing inflation, slowing job growth, and continued economic uncertainty afflicted businesses nationwide during 2022,” the report reads. “Although Northern Virginia tends to weather recessions more easily than other regions due to its reliance on the federal government and strong professional services sector, businesses in our area were impacted by many of these same challenges.”
The report says traditional hiring routes, like job boards and word of mouth, are still heavily relied on in the region, as is requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher.
That’s not necessarily ideal when it comes to filling needed positions.
“Skills-based hiring, consideration of non-degree credentials/training, and work-based learning all offer the means of expanding employer access to workers who are often overlooked by traditional methods, which is particularly important given an increasing focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in hiring,” the report reads.
Such opportunities to hire remain “underutilized by businesses in Northern Virginia.”
If the labor market remains as tight as it is now, the report says businesses are going to have to get more creative when it comes to finding and keeping new talent.
The Northern Virginia Workforce Index survey was conducted between October 14 and December 9, 2022.
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