‘Now Hiring’: US employers struggle to find enough workers

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Vendors, food servers, postal workers – “Help Wanted” ads are on the rise across the United States as businesses struggle to cope with a labor shortage caused by the pandemic, a wave early retirement and restrictive immigration laws.

More than 10 million jobs went unfilled in June, government data shows, while fewer than six million people looked for work, even as employers desperately try to boost hiring amid a consumer spending spree.

“We have plenty of jobs, but not enough workers to fill them,” the US Chamber of Commerce, which represents American businesses, said in a statement.

Many of those who went out of work as Covid-19 first ravaged the US economy in early 2020 have never returned.

“There would be 3.4 million more workers today if labor force participation” – the percentage of the working-age population currently employed or actively seeking work – were at the rate of before the pandemic, the chamber calculated. It went from 63.4% to 62.1%.

And where have all these people gone? Many simply took early retirement.

“Part of that is because the US population continues to age,” Nick Bunker, labor market specialist for job board Indeed, told AFP.

Too few immigrants

The huge cohort of “baby boomers” has already started to leave the workforce, but there has been an “acceleration in retirements” since the pandemic hit, Ms Diane Swonk told AFP. chief economist at KPMG.

Millions of people opted for early retirement, health-conscious and with enough wealth – thanks to a then buoyant stock market and high house prices – to quit work.

In the short term, Mr Bunker said: ‘We are unlikely to return to exactly pre-pandemic labor market participation levels due to the aging population.’

Adding to that, Ms Swonk said, “We haven’t had immigration at the pace needed to replace baby boomers.”

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