Plenty of Jobs, Few Workers

Are you an employer who is unable to expand simply because you cannot find enough workers? If so, you are not alone. Although May’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed an improvement over April’s job gains, it was still 100,000 lower than economists’ predictions.

There are plenty of reasons that American workers are not jumping back into the labor market. Many experts point to the generous COVID-19 relief payments which have driven up salary demands & kept others on the unemployment roll much too long. A University of Chicago study found 42% of people receiving benefits receive more than they did in their prior jobs. Adam Ozimek, the chief economist at Upwork, originally thought expanded unemployment benefits were a wise policy. He now views them as “a policy mistake that is going to hold back the recovery in the coming months.” There is some disagreement among economists as to whether continuing the benefits have helped or hindered. Those of us on the “front lines” here at Frazee can attest to the fact that candidates are turning down jobs because “unemployment is better than working.”

Childcare is another huge issue. During the pandemic, many women quit their jobs to take care of their children. Many parents are still dealing with school closures and remote learning. For those ready to return to the workplace, openings at childcare centers are limited. Some centers closed permanently during the crisis. Other centers are operating with fewer slots because of pandemic-related limits on capacity. 

Another reason people are not returning to the workplace is the fear of contracting Covid. A successful vaccination program would most likely cure this fear, but you still have many people refusing the vaccine. While 70% of the total American population has received at least the first Covid vaccine, the Southern states have fallen way behind in this effort. Louisiana has one of the lowest vaccine rates at 33.48% of the state’s population.

Employers who are no longer offering remote work or a hybrid work model may also be at risk of losing employees. At Frazee, we have noticed that a certain percentage of our labor pool will only accept “work from home” assignments.

Is there reason to hope that this tight labor market will ease soon? I think so.  26 states just announced an early halt to enhanced jobless benefits. Gov. Edwards has set July 31 as the end date for Louisiana’s jobless benefits. The American Rescue Plan Act (APA), signed into law on March 11, 2021, includes multiple funding streams to help the childcare industry get back on its feet. The APA bill also increases Child Care & Development Block Grant funds to assist states in subsidizing childcare for low-income families.

The State of Louisiana’s vaccine lottery should help increase the number of vaccinated people & decrease the anxiety workers feel about going back to work. The various hybrid work scenarios employers are putting into place should accommodate many of those WFH (work from home) advocates.

Whatever way you look at it, the labor market recovery is going to be “bumpy.” But we will get through it just like we have gotten through the pandemic.