One thing we have learned from the COVID-19 experience is what happens to our systems when a whole lot of people get the same idea at the same time. For example, we all wanted to buy essentials like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and masks, and demand overwhelmed the supply chain. Many people began working remotely, at the same time as school children were studying from home, slowing the internet to a crawl in places. In these examples and in many others, the supply did not change much, but the demand spiked quickly.
|Image: Sergey Nivens/Adobe Stock|
We were reminded recently that it can go the other way, too, as we saw with crude oil. A combination of increased supply and plummeting demand resulted in the price of oil dropping to unheard of prices in just a few days.
We seem to be moving collectively through this journey, somewhat like a herd. So, what’s next? Where else will there be shortages? Maybe testing kits? I predicted a run on the hair color aisle but nothing yet, so clearly, I don’t know about retail items.
What I do have some insight into is hiring top talent in the plastics industry. Right now, it’s a mixed bag. There are companies still hiring, companies selectively moving forward on critical roles only, and companies that have a hiring freeze or have laid off workers.
But all that is about to change. Why? Supply and demand. The supply side is easy — it won’t change much. It will decrease slightly as some people who were near retirement anyway will go ahead and do that, while some will take the opportunity to migrate to other industries.
The demand side will change dramatically, however. Once we are back to something like normal in the plastics industry — maybe June or July, August at the very latest — everyone will be hiring, and the available candidate pool is going to look like the toilet paper aisle in your local grocery store. A perfect storm is brewing based on several factors:
- There will be increased demand for many plastic products, as our lifestyles change and the country re-thinks things like single-use plastics bans.
- There will be increased labor demand due to re-shoring.
- There will be pent-up demand from what might seem like unlikely sources, including the automotive and durable goods industries.
- There is a lot of talk about more stimulus targeting infrastructure, which could be a wild card in job creation for some plastics companies.
- We entered the pandemic with 3.5% unemployment overall and very little has changed fundamentally.
Given that it takes two to three months to fill most professional roles, it will be far better to be in this market a bit early than a bit late. The Dow Jones traded below 20,000 just a month ago, but for only a week. Sometimes windows of opportunity do not stay open long, and we are in a brief window of opportunity in the labor market right now.
About the author
Paul Sturgeon is CEO of KLA Industries, a national search firm specializing in plastics, packaging, and polymer technology. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, a company that is growing, or other ideas for this blog, e-mail Sturgeon at [email protected].