Thursday, June 3, 2021

Labor Shortage or Shortage of Jobs "Good Enough to Take"?

With more states ending the $300 in additional COVID-19 unemployment benefits, will it mean people will be forced to seek employment? Let's hope but there are many other reasons for workers being reluctant to return to work after the pandemic. 

We’ve been talking a lot about the labor shortage happening in this economy. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said in a report that we are in a workforce crisis. The economy is experiencing an all-time high of 8.1 million job openings and there are not enough available workers able, or willing, to take those jobs as offered.

The Chamber says this shortage started before the pandemic, but post-pandemic realities have exacerbated the issue. To compile the report, the Chamber of Commerce came up with what it calls a worker availability ratio, figuring out how many workers are available for every open position. Right now, their data show it stands at 1.4 workers per open position. Normally, that ratio is closer to 2.8 workers per vacant job.

Some of that is due to skills gaps and immigration policy. However, the Chamber’s Executive Vice President Neil Bradley said: “The pandemic and some of the pandemic responses have created new barriers for people to return to the workforce.”

He cited factors like remote learning, which keeps kids at home, or child care centers closing, and a lack of before- and after-school care. And, said Bradley, those fields are struggling to hire as well, compounding the problem. “The industries that need workers are also the industries that we need to recover to be able to help other people get back to work,” he said.

Many economists point to the quality of jobs and pay offered as additional reasons why workers may not be rushing to go back. According to Lily Roberts, managing director with the Center for American Progress: “There are enough workers for the jobs. I think the thing that we have a shortage of is jobs that are good enough to take, right now.”

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Gary Fleisher is the Managing Director and contributor to the Modcoach Network and its affiliated blogs.

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