The second reason that consultants aren’t hiring is that fewer of their workers are quitting. “[The] consulting industry has incredibly high churn rates,” said Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom, who was himself once a consultant with McKinsey. “During my time at McKinsey, consultants were leaving all the time to take jobs with clients or other firms, which required a massive amount of new hiring just to stand still.” This type of churn likely isn’t happening right now, thinks Bloom, since people are less inclined to the leave their job during a pandemic. Without people quitting, it’s less necessary to find new workers.

Although data on the rate of quitting in the consulting industry isn’t available, data for “professional and business services” show a huge drop in monthly quitting rates from April to June. Professional services jobs are typically higher turnover than the average job, but that gap narrowed during this recession.

A third possible reason for the lack of hiring is the consulting industry’s reliance on business travel. Many management consultants make weekly trips to other cities to work with staff on site, but Covid-19 has made this difficult-to-impossible. Companies may not want to hire consultants if they can’t meet them face-to-face, or they may not be able to charge them as much money.

It’s possible that Covid-19 could transform the industry, said Konkel. Companies might find that remote consulting works and business travel will no longer be necessary. This could have the effect of increasing demand for consultants, and lead to more hiring in the long run. But in the short term, as coronavirus surges in many countries in the world, the industry will continue to stay on hold.

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