What the Government Shutdown Taught Us About Job Posting Sites

During the first 16 days of October, the United States government was in shutdown mode and halted many routine operations after Congress failed to appropriate funds for the 2014 fiscal year and didn’t enact a continuing resolution to provide for funding in the meantime. An interim appropriations bill was signed into law October 17 putting people back to work, but during the shutdown, around 800,000 federal employees were furloughed, and 1.3 million were required to go to work without knowing when they would be paid.

Millions were affected by the October 2013 US government shutdown.

Seeing opportunity in difficulty, however, a startup incubator called 1776 went live with a new website called Unfurlough.US that was designed to hook up furloughed federal employees with freelance or part-time work to help these workers replace lost income. The site went from being a public Google document to a job site in the space of only about five hours. While the site definitely gained attention due to the government shutdown and ensuing media coverage, it can teach digital publishers some important truths about job posting sites and how to use job board software to improve website monetization.

What Digital Publishers Can Learn from Unfurlough.US

One important lesson Unfurlough.US confirmed is that, while job posting sites need to be carefully thought out, they can be rolled out in a short amount of time. Customizable job board software is available that allows digital publishers and trade publication websites to create white label job boards targeted to their audiences without the need for extensive programming efforts. The site also drove home the point that online job search is the new normal. While people may occasionally still go at a page of printed classified job ads with a highlighter, searching for a job online is generally how it is done today.

Targeted Job Boards Are Successful

Another important lesson digital publishers can learn from Unfurlough.US is that targeted job boards get results. The fact is, furloughed federal workers often have very specific skill sets, and employers often need workers with very specific skill sets, so it was only natural that those workers and employers would coalesce around a site created for a very specific set of workers in a unique situation. If you were a furloughed NASA scientist in need of continued income, for example, you probably spent little to no time on huge job aggregators or answering vague Craigslist ads. But if you had the opportunity to put your skills to use on a relevant, weeklong freelance job, you could replace lost income while awaiting the call back to work.

Digital Publishers Must Stay Abreast of Trends to Keep Job Boards Relevant

Understanding trade- or region-related employment trends helps you keep your job board relevant.
Understanding trade- or region-related employment trends helps you keep your job board relevant.


Unfurlough.US took advantage of a very specific set of circumstances. Though they ended up receiving press attention from big sites like Mashable, TechCrunch, and CNET, Unfurlough.US started out with a simple and specific objective that was based on a current reality in the employment world. Depending on your digital publication, you can tailor your job board to current realities faced by your targeted audience. For example, if your local online newspaper reaches people affected by a major industry shutdown, you can look for employers targeting these workers who might be interested in listing on your site. If your site targets a particular trade, staying informed of industry trends can help you approach the right employers for your readership.

Turning Harsh Realities Into Opportunities

Unfurlough.US addressed an unusual mix of news cycle, economic need, and public sentiment, and gained a lot of positive attention even though it was new and very simply designed. Understanding economic trends in your specific region or in your trade can help you gain an advantage over job posting sites that are run on autopilot. When job posting sites recognize a trend or a need and make an effort to meet that need, they not only draw the interest of workers looking for jobs, but of specific employers who may be exactly right for those workers. When you’re able to do this, you not only indirectly address traffic development, you provide a needed service, and employers and job seekers will remember that next time they’re looking.

The government shutdown affected millions of regular working people and dominated news cycles for a couple of weeks. By recognizing an opportunity, 1776 and their site were able to quickly spring into action and try to address a pressing need in a unique way, and showed how job listing sites can succeed by doing so. With a carefully crafted job board on your news or trade publication website, you can assist revenue development, and position your publication to provide needed services and gain positive attention should a unique situation affects your readership.

Photo Credits: David Castillo Dominici / freedigitalphotos.net, Keerati / freedigitalphotos.net

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