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News / Business / Clark County Business

Is there a ‘September Surge’ in hiring in Clark County?

Most experts in Clark County say hiring is not exceptionally hot now

By Sarah Wolf, Columbian staff writer
Published: September 9, 2023, 6:02am

For several years, national and local publications have reported on a seemingly massive hiring trend — the September Surge.

But whether such a surge in hiring happening right here, right now in Clark County is up for debate.

There are a number of offices in the region that are deep in the trenches of hiring. WorkSource is one of them. The publicly funded office helps job seekers find work and helps employers find employees.

At the local WorkSource office in Vancouver, the team has seen an uptick in folks coming in to look for work.

“This usually happens every year when children go back to school,” said Michelle McClanahan, project director at WorkSource in Vancouver.

According to the Washington Employment Security Department, the numbers show an increase in local hiring. But Scott Bailey, regional economist for the department, questions how big of a surge it really is.

“Generally speaking, September is not a huge hiring month,” said Bailey.

According to the data, there’s a jump in employment in education as the school year starts. But by the fall, construction has peaked, though there are small bumps in food processing, transportation services and health care.

Outside of education and these small bumps, Bailey said, there’s “not much going on.”

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But recruiters across industries have said that there is still a great demand for workers in the current economy. This has boosted business.

Opti Staffing Group’s Vancouver office focuses on connecting businesses and employees in a number of industries, including construction, manufacturing, logistics and professional services.

Historically, September is a busy time of year for the office, says branch manager Arie Morrow. The company places both direct-hire and contract-to-hire employees.

These days, talent is hard to find, said Morrow. So business is steady.

“That’s at all levels,” she added. “That’s why our customers turned to us. We specialize in identifying top talent, and it’s just really hard to find.”

Between all the industries the office covers, Morrow’s team is busy.

‘Yes-and-no answer’

For executive search consultants Kevin Williams and Dan Whiteley at Vancouver’s A.L. Merryman, the question about whether or not Clark County sees a surge of hiring in September is not black and white.

“It’s kind of a yes-and-no answer,” said Williams, managing partner at A.L. Merryman. “That’s the way I’ve always seen it. Yes, there is a September Surge, but in certain sectors.”

Williams points to seasonal jobs in retail that start picking up in the early fall in preparation for the holidays.

A.L. Merryman focuses on placing full-time employees primarily in architecture, engineering and construction jobs. Its busy seasons are at the beginning of the year and again in late spring and summer.

“Our surge really is June and July when students are wrapped up and parents can think more about relocating,” said Whiteley, president and executive recruiter for the construction group at A.L. Merryman.

Williams said he does think that there is a window to make a career change from Labor Day until the end of October.

“As soon as you hit the holiday season, it goes pretty cool,” he said. So the surge is more like an end-of-year sprint, said Williams.

“We always push real hard in September, October and November,” he added. “No meaningful hiring goes on between the first week of December and Christmas.”

Whitely agrees the term “September Surge” is off.

“It’s not going to be a September surge. It’s going to be like a September boost,” said Whiteley.