‘Ghosting coasting’ is the latest labor challenge for employers, where under-qualified hires disappear before they can be fired

A 'help wanted' sign in a restaurant window
A Help Wanted sign hangs in the window of a restaurant in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan in New York, Tuesday, May 4, 2021. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
  • US employers are desperate for workers, sometimes hiring employees without a full vetting.
  • Recently, some new hires are showing up just long enough to get paid before disappearing.
  • One source called the practice “ghosting coasting,” according to the Federal Reserve of Atlanta.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Vanished. Left on read. Stood up. Ghosted.

It has become a fact of modern social life that someone will – at some point – leave you hanging without any explanation. Odds are you’ve done the same to someone else.

Now, that social disappearing act has arrived in the workplace in a new way as US employers scramble to find staff – sometimes hiring candidates without a full vetting of their qualifications.

Ghosting has become such an issue for employers that none other than the Federal Reserve of Atlanta made mention of it in the Fed’s latest roundup of economic trends from across its 12 districts.

“Retention continued to be a growing problem for firms,” the Atlanta Fed reported. “Restauranteurs noted concerns over ‘ghosting coasting,’ where a new hire works for a few days and moves on to the next restaurant without notice before they are let go due to lack of skills.”

The trend can be even more costly when employers offer up-front bonuses and incentives like free food and discounts to simply apply or accept a job.

Disruptive as the trend may be for employers, Adrienne Slack, the regional executive for the New Orleans Branch of the Atlanta Fed, would give workers the benefit of the doubt here.

“The restaurant industry in particular, it can be a tough place to work,” she told NPR’s Robert Smith and Adrian Ma on the “Planet Money” podcast. “It’s very demanding. And as individuals that haven’t necessarily worked in that industry before realize that, they realize they may not want to work in that particular job for very long.”

“I’m hearing this from multiple contacts,” she added, “not just in the restaurant industry, but I hear it in manufacturing as well.”

Turnover and retention rates have long been a significant fact of life in the fast-food business especially. Two years ago, the average monthly turnover rate in the industry was 135%, which basically meant that four people were hired each month for every three who remained on staff. This summer, the turnover rate ticked up to 144%.

Additionally, US Labor Department data show restaurant workers are quitting their jobs at the highest rate in two decades. Within the accommodation and food services sector, the quit rate was 5.7% in June 2021, more than double the national average quit rate of 2.7%.

“What that has the restaurants and the manufacturers thinking about is, how do we make our industries more attractive for the workforce? How do we address the reasons behind this ghosting coasting? So it’s really about retention,” Slack said.

If you are a worker who has ghosted an employer, or an employer who has been ghosted, please get in touch with Dominick Reuter via email. Responses to this story will be kept confidential.