COVID-19’s Impact on the Light Industrial Staffing Sector

While COVID-19 had a predominantly distressing effect on employment, economic growth and society in general, there are some sectors that managed to thrive during the chaos.


One of the biggest social structures to change over the course of the pandemic was the way we shop. Collective shopping habits have transformed into such that are almost entirely reserved for big-box stores, which have typically been permitted to stay open during the pandemic, as well as online stores all as a result of global lockdowns, social distancing measures and general fear of potentially being exposed to the virus.


The need for light industrial workers, and way that these jobs are filled, has also been subject to change. Light industrial staffing has seen a huge uptick in business over the past several months in response to the sudden influx of warehouse and manufacturing demand.


Read on for some insight into how this industry is managing the changes brought on by the pandemic, and whether or not those changes are here to stay.  

The COVID-19 Impact on Retail

The fate of traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores has been on the steady decline for years, but nothing accelerated the demise quite like COVID-19. Worldwide economic shutdowns and recommendations to stay inside forced smaller businesses to shutter their physical doors and, if possible, move their business online. However, for many small businesses – nearly 100,000, according to recent reports – the pandemic meant permanent closure. This compelled customers to take their spending power to retailers that were able to both keep their doors open throughout the pandemic and were large enough to withstand drops in sales.


Small, independent businesses tend to not use staffing agencies to find their talent, and rather rely on their networks or job boards. By comparison, larger corporations typically turn to staffing firms, as they often do not have the time or energy to find talent themselves. It stands to reason then that the busier these large corporations become, so too will staffing agencies.  

The Rise of Light Industrial Staffing

In response to the shifts in the retail sector, light industrial staffing has steadily been on the rise. The monumental growth in popularity for both online shopping and big-box stores means a heightened demand for warehouse, manufacturing and supply chain workers, replacing traditional retail workers on a grand scale. This seemed to happen overnight: the onset of the vast changes brought about by the pandemic effectively shocked people into these newly formed shopping habits.


Light industrial employment is traditionally subject to frequent fluctuations and changes in demand, and employers often require sudden bursts of extra manpower, especially during times of heightened spending, such as during the winter holiday season.


Staffing firms that specialize in light industrial have boomed in response to the pandemic and the trends that accompanied it. These kinds of staffing firms tend to embody a “continuous intake” model, in which workers are recruited even without necessarily having a specific placement lined up, which leaves firms with large, ready-to-work talent pools. Having a large amount of workers on hand to deploy at a moment’s notice when demand increases is necessary for these firms to stay competitive, and this exact phenomenon has happened on a global scale over the past several months.


Many warehouse and manufacturing operations have turned to staffing agencies for help during these unprecedented times. Even if they have never partnered with a search firm prior to the pandemic, the upswing in demand has necessitated their assistance, and staffing agencies in this sector have become even more than adept at quickly finding, screening and deploying large quantities of workers to meet the need.  


warehouse mindscope light industrial staffing  

Are These Changes Here to Stay?

With the COVID-19 vaccine finally approved in many parts of the world and the return to normalcy seemingly on the horizon, it’s begs one to think if everything will resume as usual. We believe fervently that even once COVID-19 is just a distant memory, it is unlikely that the increased convenience of online and big-box shopping will ever drop to pre-pandemic levels. Many consumers switched to this kind of shopping out of necessity; however, the ease and benefits associated with it has other positive effects that are undeniable.


The projected permanence of these shopping trends directly correlates to the way jobs are filled, and what kinds of jobs will be more in demand. In this regard, it’s also likely that the light industrial staffing sector will continue to grow, as more and more retailers begin to adopt the online business model while abandoning physical stores, and big box operations continue to prosper. Warehouse jobs have grown at twice the average rate for job growth over the past year, and the manufacturing sector has also seen record growth in 2020. Developments like these indicate that the changes prompted by the pandemic are here to stay for the long haul.    


Mindscope is always eager to contribute to the conversations surrounding the constantly shifting economic climate, and to provide our customers with the resources and tools that help them thrive during these uncertain times.  Try our industry-leading ATS for free with your 7-day trial.