If you’ve been on job search Twitter or TikTok lately, you may have come across the term “September surge”—referring essentially to a pickup in hiring and recruiting activity from Labor Day through around Halloween. And you may have heard HR pros, career coaches, recruiters, and those randos who just speak with authority on whatever they feel like all telling you to start submitting resumes, updating your LinkedIn, and drycleaning your interview clothes.
If you’ve been slogging through a long, hot, and slow summer job search with little to no response from employers, you may have just perked up a bit. Is that a light at the end of the tunnel?
As we all know (at least I hope we all know), you can’t believe everything you see on social media. So we did a little digging to find out if the “September surge” is real or if this social media claim is about as valid as the ones that say you can land a role by pasting the job description in white text at the bottom of your resume (which, to be clear, you absolutely cannot.)
Is the “September surge” real?
While there is anecdotal evidence from hiring managers, recruiters, and career coaches to support a “September surge,” official numbers don’t reflect an increase in hiring across all industries. But the data and anecdotal evidence do align on one thing: Hiring slows down during the holidays (from Thanksgiving to New Year’s). So if you want to land a new job before the end of the year, September and October are key.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) monthly “Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey” (JOLTS) reports the number of hires made each month by all non-farm employers in the country. These numbers encapsulate all non-farm industries—including those that are more seasonal, such as hospitality—and they count a “hire” when a new employee is added to the payroll (not when they accept a job offer).
So to figure out if the September surge exists, we looked at the number of hires in each month over the last 10 years across all non-farm industries as well as for two specific industries—“business and professional services” and “finance and insurance.”
For eight of the last 10 years, June has been the month with the most hires across all industries. (Yes, of course, 2020 was one of the outlier years). Neither October nor September has claimed the top spot in the last decade—or even in this century. And the biggest surge actually happens between December and January. September tends to be down from August, with October ticking back up slightly.
Anecdotally, the surge in hiring activity begins after Labor Day. “In the busier hiring months, hiring can move quite quickly,” says Muse career coach Heather Yurovsky. “Candidates can expect the process to last anywhere from three to five weeks,” meaning most hires will actually be counted in October.
In some industries that BLS tracks—like “business and professional services” and “finance and insurance”—things do tend to pick up in September and lead to more hires in October than August. In Yurovsky's experience with clients in nonseasonal industries, “This faster pace, as compared to summer hiring, continues through the end of October and can extend as far as mid-November.”
One thing is clear though: Both broadly and in the specific industries we looked at, December typically has the fewest new hires of any month, and November sees a decrease from October. “I never have thought of it as a hiring surge in the fall,” says Muse career coach Tara Goodfellow, owner of Athena Consultants and a former recruiter and hiring manager, “but more of a hiring dip during the holidays and closing out the calendar year.”
After the holiday slump, hiring “picks up again in January when most companies are in a new fiscal year and budgets open up,” says Muse career coach Leto Papadopoulos. Basically, it’s all one big cycle. Neither September nor October is the high point of this cycle, but it’s your best shot at landing and starting a new job until New Year’s.
So why might it feel like there’s a September surge?
One reason hiring might feel like it’s picking up in September is that things were just moving more slowly in the summer. “Clients always are frustrated during the summer,” Goodfellow says. In her 14 years of coaching experience, the application process can last an extra four to six weeks during this season. “The hiring managers and all parties involved are on vacation—seemingly never at the same time.”
So those slower hiring processes that may be ongoing from the summer are suddenly speeding up. And employers might be making a push to post and fill new positions. “As the year is winding down, hiring managers are eager to spend any budget allotment and hire up to be ready for the new year and any new initiatives or projects on the horizon.” says Muse career coach Angela Smith, an HR executive with experience in corporate talent acquisition. “This is coupled with the reality that not much movement happens in November and December on the hiring front.”
And this slump in November and December is another reason it might feel like there’s a September surge. Even if September and October hiring lags behind the earlier months of the year, there’s still way more activity than there will be once the holidays roll around.
The third reason there might feel like there’s a September surge? In certain industries or kinds of jobs, there may be. No one TikToker or Twitter poster’s experience is universal—nor is any Muse coach’s. And BLS doesn’t release monthly hiring numbers for all job functions or smaller industries, so it doesn’t reflect patterns in every niche.
Top tips for getting hired in September or October—surge or no surge
OK, so whether or not you think there’s a hiring surge that’ll affect you during the fall months, you still might want to beat the holiday slump and get a new job ASAP. Here’s how:
- Don’t hesitate. If you want or need a job before the end of the year, take advantage of September and October. Getting hired “can be more challenging during the holidays both with extended vacations for people in hiring positions and waiting until new budgets open Q1,” Goodfellow says.
- But don’t just apply to everything. It can be tempting to just submit as many “Easy Apply” applications as you can, but Goodfellow is “not a fan of the ‘blast and hope something sticks’ approach.” You’re much more likely to be successful in your job search if you focus on sending out strong application materials—like tailored, ATS-friendly resumes and customized cover letters—to the jobs you want most.
- Update your LinkedIn and stay active. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is current, and return to the site once you’ve done that. Connect with old coworkers. Ask connections for help. Respond to posts—especially ones about open jobs.
- Prepare for interviews. Getting noticed by employers is just the first step. Be sure you’re ready to nail your answers to interview questions as well.
Just because you’ve heard about a “September surge” doesn’t mean you won’t land a great job any other month of the year. Not all industries follow the same hiring patterns. (Schools wouldn’t function too well if they waited for September to start interviewing, would they?) Plus, companies do hire throughout the year, even if some months are a bit slower than others.