Workforce shortage is holding the nation, Kentucky back from economic recovery, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports show

Help wanted sign in front of store front

Businesses from across the nation are experiencing difficulty filling the growing number of open positions, which is holding back economic recovery and growth.

At the end of April 2021, there were more than 9.3 million job openings while 9.8 million Americans were unemployed, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report. The number of job openings in April marks a new record. The report also showed an increase of 1 million job openings posted between March and April and more than 2.5 million job openings posted in 2021 so far.

Though jobs are being created, the report detailing May labor statistics shows U.S. employment is still 7.6 million below where it was before the pandemic began in February 2020. Furthermore, data shows that if jobs grow at the same pace of 559,000 as it did in May, it will take another 14 months to return to pre-pandemic employment.

While the unemployment rate decreased from 6.1% to 5.8% in May, the labor force fell by 53,000, meaning Americans are not returning to the workforce despite jobs being available. This is especially true of Kentucky. According to the Kentucky Chamber’s most recent economic update report, the gap between Kentucky’s labor force participation rate and the national rate is almost a full point wider than it was before the pandemic. This gap suggests that a larger share of workers who lost jobs during the recession are not looking for work in Kentucky compared to the rest of the nation.

To better understand the workforce shortage, the U.S. Chamber polled unemployed Americans on why have not yet returned to employment. Almost half of the respondents that lost their job during the pandemic said they are not actively or very active in looking for a new job.

The poll also revealed three factors for Americans returning to the workforce:

  • 16% say it’s “not worth” searching for a job because of the money they currently earn from unemployment benefits.
  • 24% said childcare and family care needs are a factor
  • 23% say they lack the skills or experience needed for most jobs available

To help get the nation’s economy back on track, U.S. Chamber Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley is encouraging states to end federal unemployment benefits, use COVID relief funds for job training programs, help improve access to childcare, and more.

To help engage Americans and businesses to solve the nation’s workforce crisis, the U.S. Chamber created an initiative called America Works. Click here to learn more.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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