In bad news for President Joe Biden and his hopes to restore to American economy post-COVID, fears of a labor shortage grew Tuesday as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that there were 9.3 million job openings nationwide at the end of April, according to the Washington Examiner.
The number of job openings was roughly the same as the number of people unemployed in the U.S. in May, and is the highest number since BLS started tracking job openings in 2000.
“Demand for workers is surging as the broader economy starts to emerge from the pandemic,” Indeed Hiring Lab director of research Nick Bunker said, according to the Examiner. “At the same time, supply is restrained as workers are slow to find their post-pandemic normal.”
Keeping workers home?
If job openings equal the number of unemployed, then we should just be able to match people up to jobs and it will equal out to zero, right? Turns out, that’s not how the labor market works.
There is always some level of unemployment in the economy, as some people find that there aren’t available jobs in their field where they live, while others may be looking for a job but not having success due to their lack of skills or poor employment track record.
But in this case, employers all over the country say they are having no luck finding the workers they need, and as the Examiner notes, some have suggested that the $300 per week federal unemployment boost is playing a role in that.
It was almost understandable for people to stay home and collect unemployment during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, when vaccines were not yet available, but now, people have grown used to getting paid a certain amount without working and are not willing to go back to work for lower or the same wages.
The situation should change when the unemployment boost (and in some cases all benefits) ends in September — sooner in some two dozen Republican-led states that decided to end it early, as the Examiner reported.
It’s one thing to stay home when you’re getting paid the same or more as your job would pay, but it’s not a stretch to presume that few would stay home when they aren’t getting paid and there are jobs available.
Notable exceptions to this principle are those who have been at home with children doing virtual or hybrid school, and who have had to put their returns to work on hold because of a lack of child care. Most of these people are women, and the situation is likely to improve for some by the time school starts in the fall, as most school districts have announced their intent to return to a normal schedule.
In the meantime, many retailers who have not been able to find labor have cut their hours, kept indoor dining closed, and offered overtime to the workers they do have in an effort to stay open despite the shortages, reports note.
There are still 3.5 million fewer workers in the labor force than in February 2020, before the pandemic hit, according to CNBC — and businesses need those workers to come back if the economy is going to fully recover from the impacts of shutdowns and disruptions over the last 15 months.