We’re living through a unique moment in United States history.


The 2021 labor shortage

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The shortage at a glance

What’s behind the shortage?

The impact on customer experience

What does this mean for your business?

For the first time in 15 years, the number of open jobs is roughly equal to the number of unemployed workers.

For employers, that makes finding—and retaining—skilled employees more difficult than ever.

On top of that, workers are quitting at historically high rates. According to Axios:

"Quits as a percentage of total separations—which includes layoffs, firings and retirements—reached 69.3% in June [2021]."

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What’s behind the shortage and quit numbers?

There are numerous factors, motivations, and causes, many of which relate to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic:

Health and safety concerns

Lack of affordable and safe childcare

The pressures of remote learning on working parents

Rising levels of burnout, anxiety, and depression

In addition, there is a growing misalignment between companies and workers around work–life balance, especially as costs of living continue to rise.

Many people prefer the flexibility of remote work and are leaving companies that require employees to work in shared physical spaces. And more employees are leaving roles for higher pay as well as opportunities to pursue their passions and develop soft skills. 

Today’s employees are looking for:



Better pay


Professional development

Rewarding work

But while many employers are working to improve their pay, benefits, training, and worker experience, these changes take time, and the labor shortage is creating significant gaps right now.

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The shortage is affecting customer experience.

All businesses are dealing with the same challenges, but some jobs are particularly hard to keep filled—namely, jobs that involve customer service, support, and communication.

That means the labor shortage is not only affecting businesses from a staffing perspective, but dragging down customers’ and clients’ experiences.

That means the labor shortage is not only affecting businesses from a staffing perspective, but dragging down customers’ and clients’ experiences.

A lack of customer-facing workers means…

Long wait times

Missed calls

Unanswered questions

Lack of empathy & understanding

More mistakes & mixups

Unmet customer expectations

Poor customer experiences

…all of which lead to missed opportunities, unhappy customers, and damage to businesses’ reputations and bottom lines.

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What does this mean for your business?

This is a defining moment for businesses—an opportunity to review your hiring practices, compensation, and the flexibility you offer employees.

Even with change, however, an employer starting a job search right now would likely need to wait weeks, if not a month or longer, before having a fully onboarded and trained employee ready to communicate with customers.

The labor shortage has created a highly competitive job market in nearly every industry. Flip your industry card to see the average time to hire:

Business Services

25 days


13 days


29 days

Financial Services

21 days

Home Services

31 days


49 days


28 days


31 days

Real Estate

31 days

Change takes time. If you need help right now, consider a customer communication solution like Ruby.

Ruby's highly-trained virtual receptionists are ready to start now.

We answer all your calls and website chats live, creating meaningful connections and unforgettable customer service experiences. It’s all powered by award-winning training and industry-leading company culture.

Discover why 14,000 businesses rely on Ruby.

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Perspectives on the labor shortage

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