Hiring bonuses luring unemployed Americans back to work as extra benefits end

Open jobs offering hiring bonuses has doubled since beginning of 2020

As businesses struggle to onboard new employees, a number of companies started offering one-time bonuses in hopes of luring people back to work – an incentive that's proven popular so far, according to two new studies. 

The number of job listings that are advertising hiring bonuses has more than doubled compared with last year, findings published by Indeed show. At the same time, job searches for signing bonuses, retention bonuses and cash incentives have surged 134% since January.

"This trend indicates the labor market is recovering and that at least some job seekers believe they are in the driver’s seat," AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at Indeed Hiring Lab, said in a blog post. "These workers are holding out for better deals rather than taking the first opportunity that comes along."


The chance of finding an open job that's offering some type of hiring bonus is more likely in some sectors; for instance, about 16% of listings for driving-related jobs offered a bonus in the week ending June 18, while about 13.8% of openings for dental jobs mentioned a hiring bonus. That's compared to 11.3% of open nurse jobs and 11.2% of veterinary positions. 

Polling released by the Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday echoes the sentiment that unemployed Americans are seeking some type of financial bonus before returning to work: Nearly 4 in 10 individuals who lost their jobs during the pandemic said a $1,000 hiring bonus would make them more likely to return to work full-time. The percentage was particularly high among younger workers between the ages of 25 and 34 (53%) and those with some college education but not a degree (49%). 

As the economy reopens, companies have complained about a lack of available workers. Labor Department data from April and May shows anemic job growth well below economists' expectations. There's some evidence that ending unemployment benefits led to an uptick in job searches; early data published by Indeed shows that job search activity rose by 5% the day each state announced its plan to cut off the sweetened aid.


The increase was temporary, disappearing by the eighth day after the announcement, Indeed found. By the second week following the announcement, job search activity in the states had returned to its April levels. Some experts say there are other returns for workers' reticence about returning to the labor force, including a lack of child care and continuing fears of contracting COVID-19.

At least 10 states – Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Virginia – are providing workers with up to $2,000 when they accept a new job. In the majority of states (excluding Connecticut, Michigan and Virginia), the initiative is in lieu of the federal unemployment program that provided out-of-work Americans with an extra $300 a week, on top of their regular state benefits. 

Chamber of Commerce CEO Neil Bradley urged more states to offer incentive programs such as return-to-work bonuses.


"Too many businesses and communities across the nation continue to suffer amid the growing worker shortage," Bradley said in a statement. "We are calling on every governor to take immediate action to help bring more Americans back into the workforce."

There remain about 7.4 million fewer jobs than there were in February 2020, before the pandemic shut down broad swaths of the nation's economy.