WASHINGTON (AP) – A surge in hiring in the US last month – 916,000 additional jobs, most since August – coincides with growing confidence that the rapid growth in jobs will continue to accelerate as vaccinations rise and government aid stimulates economic growth.
In fact, the most optimistic economists predict the nation could create up to 10 million more jobs by the end of the year and bring the labor market back to pre-pandemic levels.
Maybe like this. But even in normal times it would be difficult to get all these jobs back so quickly. And these are not normal times.
Many people who have been excluded from working life continue to fear the coronavirus and are reluctant to take on personal service assignments. Millions of women still take care of children who go to school online – and cannot take jobs because they cannot find or afford childcare.
Expanded unemployment benefits have meant that some employers may have to pay more to attract workers, which they may not be able to do. And some people need new skills before they can get a job to replace the one they lost.
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While few doubt that the trillions of federal money flowing through the economy will help speed hiring, the challenges are sure to persist. Here are some examples:
Right now, a sizeable majority of Americans remain unvaccinated. And after weeks of sharp drops, the number of daily infections is rising again. Recruiters say the trend is preventing some unemployed from taking work.
“People are scared of coming to work – there are some,” said Tammy Browning, president of the KellyOCG recruitment agency.
Ultimately, ongoing vaccinations should gradually reduce such fears, although some Americans remain reluctant to get vaccinated. Browning also suggested that employers need to get more creative to make workers comfortable at work. Many of her company’s customers are manufacturing companies. In many hot factories, employees have to wear masks and gloves for eight or more hours a day.
Companies should consider adding more break times, Browning said, and allowing workers to remove their masks outside or in socially distant break rooms.
A single mom, Jennifer Knapp of Augusta, Maine, worries about what going back to work would mean for her and the health of her children. A year ago, 44-year-old Knapp lost her job as a receptionist in a hotel and spa, a place she called the “center of germs”.
“There is work out there if you want to put yourself at risk,” she said.
But the open jobs she sees are usually temporary and low wages. Knapp currently lives on savings, child support payments from her ex-husband and unemployment benefits. Like many parents, she would like to find a home-based job, ideally in her field of psychology and social work.
“The goal,” she said, “is to get out and work as long as my children are okay.”
NEED FOR CHILD CARE
Almost 2.5 million women lost their jobs and stopped looking for work during the pandemic. In most cases, experts say, it was because so many children were suddenly stuck at home, going to school online, and their parents lacking available or affordable childcare. Better childcare options or more flexible working hours would be needed to completely reverse this trend.
Some of these changes will become apparent when schools and daycare centers reopen. Around 500,000 women returned to work in March and found work. The improvement could continue in the coming months: Jed Kolko, chief economist at Indeed, the job vacancy website, says childcare vacancies are increasing, a sign that more of these centers are back on track.
Recruiters also say that flexible or hybrid working hours, along with benefits for part-time workers, can be crucial in attracting job seekers, especially women. Other companies could offer on-site childcare.
“I think it will require some systemic change by employers,” said Karen Fichuk, general manager of Randstad North America, a recruiting company.
EXTENDED JOBLESS HELP
Recruiters say the $ 300 weekly unemployment benefit that President Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion COVID relief package provided on top of regular state unemployment benefits averaging $ 340 per week, agreed May have made it harder for employers to find work. For some job seekers, especially those who fear the virus, part-time or temporary jobs in restaurants or shops that may pay less than their unemployment benefits are not a good alternative.
Economic research suggests that unemployment benefits in general did not prevent workers from getting a job: A study by the JPMorgan Chase Institute found that federal unemployment benefits did not deter those receiving work last year. However, the new $ 300 per week surcharge is said to last six months – longer than the previous payment.
“It’s a much more attractive benefit now,” said Julia Pollak, an economist at ZipRecruiter. “It would be foolish to think that it would have no effect.”
Economists have calculated that around half of the unemployed earn more in benefits than in their previous jobs.
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Another factor is that unemployed people typically require unemployed people to document their job search efforts in order to remain eligible. But most states suspended this requirement during the pandemic. That said, there are fewer incentives to look for a job.
Browning said her company advises customers to pay more and offer other benefits, including bonuses, to offset expanded unemployment benefits. Six months ago, a customer increased the hourly rate for a temporary position by $ 4 an hour. The proportion of vacancies filled has risen from 35% to 98%.
“You really have to encourage people to get back to work,” Browning said, “and that means paying at the level the market demands.”
NEED NEW SKILLS
For some of the unemployed, their old job seems to be gone for good. In some cases, their former employers have learned to work with fewer employees. In order to get a job, you have to find a job in a new profession or a new industry – maybe only after completing vocational training. This will need time.
Many economists expect more companies to contribute to training workers themselves, especially if they are desperate for new employees. If the unemployment rate continues to fall, companies may have no other choice.
“When the economy heats up, companies start upgrading their training and taking risks on someone they may not have hired in the past,” said Ryan Sweet, an economist at Moody’s Analytics.
For millions of Americans, the past year has seen demoralization of job losses – sometimes multiple layoffs – and unsuccessful job searches, leading many to abandon job searches.
The hiring in March accelerated to 916,000, but many jobs remain lost
For example, the number of people who said they were looking for a job in the past month but were too discouraged to find one didn’t change in March. This was true even though several job search websites report that job postings have risen sharply in the past few weeks.
For discouraged workers, Pollak said, it may take time to regain confidence.
“There are many job seekers who have not yet realized how quickly conditions in the job market have changed,” she said. “Many used to look for work earlier during the pandemic when it was the most difficult and frustrating to do and are now discouraged.”
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