WASHINGTON (AFP) – Salespeople, food servers, postal workers – “Help Wanted” ads are proliferating across the United States, as companies struggle to deal with a worker shortage caused by the pandemic, a rash of early retirements and restrictive immigration laws.
More than 10 million openings went unfilled in June, according to government data, while fewer than six million people were seeking work, even as employers desperately try to boost hiring amid a frenzy of consumer spending.
“We have a lot of jobs, but not enough workers to fill them,” the US Chamber of Commerce, which represents American companies, said in a statement.
Many of those who stopped working as Covid-19 first ravaged the US economy in early 2020 have never returned.
“There would be 3.4 million more workers today if labour force participation” – the percentage of the working-age population currently employed or actively seeking work – was at the pre-pandemic rate, the Chamber calculated. It has slipped from 63.4 per cent to 62.1 per cent.
And where have all these people gone? Many simply took early retirement.
“Part of that is just the US population continues to age,” Nick Bunker, a labour-market specialist with jobs website Indeed, told AFP.
Too few immigrants
The huge cohort of “baby boomers” have already begun leaving the labour market, but there has been an “acceleration in retirements” since the pandemic struck, Diane Swonk, chief economist at KPMG, told AFP.
Millions of people opted for early retirement, concerned for their health and with sufficient assets – thanks to a then-buoyant stock market and high real-estate prices – to leave the workplace.
In the short term, Bunker said, “We’re unlikely to get back to exactly the pre-pandemic level of labour-force participation because of the ageing of the population.”
Adding to this, said Swonk, “We haven’t had immigration at the pace to replace the baby boomers.”
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