A Positive Perspective – Help Wanted
Help Wanted signs are everywhere you look. From neighborhood restaurants to convenience stores, it’s hard to miss them these days. You also can’t turn on the news or read the newspaper without seeing another story about business owners talking about having vacancies but no one to fill them.
For many industries, this is the reality as our national economy emerges from more than a year under the pandemic cloud. After months spent at home and away from crowds, consumers are releasing pent-up demand in a wave of activity fueled by increased purchasing power after a year of slashing spending and several rounds of federal stimulus .
While companies have reacted quickly to capitalize on the warming economy, the national workforce has been slower to shift. Nationally, vacancies have jumped 2.5 million since the start of 2021, and the 9.3 million vacancies in April were the highest in two decades. In April alone, the number of vacancies increased by nearly one million positions, with one in three openings in the accommodation and food services industry.
These figures are not entirely surprising. Restaurants, bars, hotels and the workers who employed them have been hit hard by the economic impacts of the pandemic. Now that the end of the pandemic is in sight, the industry has the most ground to catch up. He has made notable progress. The accommodation and food services industry hired the highest number of workers in April with 232,000 new hires, but overall employment remains 2 million below levels reported in February 2020.
The challenge of finding volunteer workers can seem counterintuitive. In the first months of the pandemic, a third of workers in Nevada were unemployed and those jobless workers were concentrated in the accommodation and food services industry, where the payroll was cut in half. Nevada’s unemployment rate of 7.9% remains one of the highest in the country, and accommodation and food service workers account for four in ten jobless claims.
There seems to be a job for anyone who wants it, especially in the accommodation and food services industry, so where is the gap?
The reasons are varied. There is no doubt that larger unemployment checks combined with the elimination of the requirement that the unemployed actively seek work have created a perverse incentive for many workers to sit on the sidelines. But, it’s important to recognize that it’s not the only thing that keeps potential workers at work. A number of displaced workers have retired; others chose to go back to school. Many families have had to make changes to keep a parent home while schools are closed, and turning back isn’t as easy as flipping a switch. Other workers have delayed their return to work because they are afraid of getting sick or making someone they care for; and, a troubling paradox for those who hesitate to get vaccinated, they will not be ready to re-enter the workforce until vaccination rates approach herd immunity levels.
Whatever the reason, it is a seller’s market for labor. Companies that are desperate to fill positions are offering higher wages and hiring bonuses to attract candidates, and workers are taking advantage of the competitive environment. Not only are they re-entering the workforce with better pay prospects, but they are also quitting their jobs at the highest rate in recent history.
And the industry with the highest dropout rate is, you guessed it, the accommodation and food services industry, with a dropout rate that is double the overall average. This explains all these “Help Wanted” signs in restaurant windows.
The current dynamics of the job market are undoubtedly creating headaches for many companies looking to hire employees. But this dynamic is a temporary symptom of an economy rapidly emerging from a devastating pandemic-induced recession. The balance between supply and demand for labor will normalize, likely in the fall, once schools resume operations, unemployment programs will return to normal and immunization rates will still be. higher. By then, there will be plenty of jobs available for workers who are ready and willing to return to work. It’s a great place to consider where we were just over a year ago.
Members of the Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial and press team were not involved in the creation of this content.