Decoding the Janitorial Workforce Puzzle: Trends Impacting Hiring

In today’s labor market, companies across diverse industries are grappling with an acute shortage of workers to fill available job positions. Despite positive indicators in certain sectors, the janitorial industry and other low-wage sectors continue to grapple with the repercussions of pandemic-induced labor shortages. In this article, we delve into three key factors contributing to the persistent challenges in finding and retaining janitorial workers.


Factor #1 – The Great Reshuffle

The much-discussed “Great Resignation” witnessed an exodus of over 50 million workers in 2022 and nearly 48 million the previous year. While this trend has tempered slightly, with 30.6 million resignations in 2023 as of October 31, a deeper analysis reveals a more nuanced situation. Although people are leaving their jobs, the hiring rate has consistently outpaced the quit rate since November 2020. This shift is particularly notable in janitorial positions, where workers are seeking better opportunities across different occupations and industries, often with higher compensation. In essence, the ongoing phenomenon in low-wage industries might be better described as “The Great Reshuffle.”


Factor #2 – Legal Immigration and Resettlement at Lowest Levels in Decades

Census Bureau data indicates that net international migration to the U.S. contributed merely 247,000 persons to the population between 2020 and 2021. This marks a drastic 76% decrease from the previous decade’s high of a 1,049,000-person increase between 2015 and 2016 due to immigration. The repercussions of this decline are particularly concerning for industries like building cleaning services, where immigrants constitute 38.2% of the workforce. This downward trend in immigration could potentially lead to a significant labor shortage in the coming years.


Factor #3 – Female Labor Force Participation Challenges Persist

Despite a general upward trajectory in female labor force participation, challenges persist. In the spring of 2020, 3.5 million mothers left their jobs, causing a notable drop in the participation rate from around 70% to 55%. While more women are back in the workforce compared to February 2020, the participation rate has not fully rebounded to pre-pandemic levels or the all-time high of 60.2% in early 2001. Notably, the primary obstacle reported by 27% of surveyed women for returning to work is the need to care for children or other family members. Given that over 53% of janitorial workers are female, companies in this sector face the challenge of developing strategies to replace this crucial segment.


Strategies for Success

Addressing the complex task of hiring janitorial staff requires a proactive approach. Businesses should actively attract new talent and implement strategies to retain their top employees. Overcoming this significant challenge is feasible through the adoption of competitive salaries, increased workplace flexibility, and the cultivation of a robust company culture. By understanding and navigating the underlying trends, businesses in the janitorial sector can position themselves to overcome workforce challenges effectively.