Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 194,000 in September, and the unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage point to 4.8 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, in professional and business services, in retail trade, and in transportation and warehousing. Employment in public education declined over the month.
Although the report revised upward the estimates for hiring in July and August, adding about 169,000 jobs for the two months combined, there's no question: People are not coming back to work in the numbers required to boost the economy. COVID-19 gets much of the blame, but there seems to be more going on.
The Wall Street Journal reports
education hiring was lower than expected, adding that it seems to be indicative of a larger trend.
The reduced hiring at schools is illustrative of a more general problem, however: There is a lot of demand for workers, but many people have remained on the sidelines. Indeed, separate figures from the Labor Department show that, as of the end of July (the most recent data available), there were a seasonally adjusted 460,000 state and local education job openings. That was about twice as many unfilled education jobs as at any point before the pandemic.
The article suggests several COVID-related factors that might come into play: Schools are high contact settings, older teachers may have opted out of the workforce, and women continue to face childcare challenges. But, the reporter notes, these factors apply to other workplaces as well.
A Seattle Times story
on the ending of the extended UI benefits finds that while hiring has picked up in some areas, Puget Sound region still struggle to fill job openings.
Before Friday's jobs numbers were released, we cited two surveys
finding that corporate CEOs and small business owners both identified the labor shortage as a top business challenge.
The Business Roundtable, a national association of CEOs representing major corporations, reported the results of its Q3 2021 Economic Outlook Survey
. A key finding:
When asked to identify the most significant impediments or threats to their company’s U.S. investment, hiring and growth plans over the next year, CEOs cited continued difficulty finding and retaining qualified workers, adverse changes to U.S. corporate tax policy and slow progress in global vaccinations as their main concerns. [Emphasis added.]
Fifty-one percent (seasonally adjusted) of small business owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, up one point from August and a record-high reading for the second consecutive month, according to NFIB’s monthly jobs report. The number of unfilled job openings continues to exceed the 48-year historical average of 22%.
“More and more small business owners are struggling to find workers for their open positions,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “For most small employers, labor costs are the largest operating outlay and owners will be compelled to pass those costs on to their customers by raising prices.”
There are many reasons employees hesitate to return to the workplace, even as employers are raising wages
. The pandemic, childcare, and safety concerns
all must be addressed. We're confident that steps are being taken to address the problems, albeit more slowly than anyone would like.