With 10 million job openings, does the government have to create more?

Despite the delta variant surge, the prospect of vaccine mandates, and delays in office reopening, the economy continues to rebound, particularly with job growth.

The jobs report for July was the best in nearly a year. The economy added 943,000 jobs, above the expectation of 850,000. The unemployment rate tumbled from 5.9% to 5.4%. Wages have increased 4% over the past year. Unfortunately, those wage gains have been wiped out by inflation-driven rising consumer prices. As a result, compensation is now lower than in December of 2019 when adjusting for inflation.

The Biden administration boasted of the "accomplishment," even though most job creation is an outgrowth of people returning to work as states continued to reopen. Additionally, the expanded federal unemployment benefits will expire on Labor Day. Some states have already eliminated the extended benefits, creating more urgency for people to accept one of many job openings.

Ironically, in early May, President Joe Biden called a disappointing jobs report evidence of the necessity to pass $4 trillion in spending bills to create more jobs. However, the data shows that job creation isn't the problem.

There are nearly 10 million jobs available in the United States. There are more than 1 million more job openings than people who are looking for work. The pandemic created what some call a "COVID lifestyle," meaning a very flexible work schedule.

As a result, it's a job seeker's market, with employers offering enhanced benefits to entice people into the job market. While much of that is in medical and pharmacy, some also include the opportunity to get pet insurance, discount programs, legal services, and identity theft protection.

The pandemic also created the necessity for many employers to allow remote working. As some workers abandoned the city lifestyle for more rural areas, and with many people hesitant to return to large offices, particularly with the rise of the delta variant, more employers than ever are allowing employees to work from the comfort of their homes.

But the job market in the age of COVID-19 is not the same following a recession brought on by economic circumstances. In previous downturns, the housing market collapsed, the dot-com bubble burst, and tight monetary policy to fight double-digit inflation triggered the 1981-1982 recession.

The dilemma facing the country now is not a lack of jobs but a lack of qualified people to fill existing job openings. It is especially true in the public sector, making Biden's promise of additional government-created jobs much more precarious.

The MissionSquare Research Institute has surveyed state and local human resources departments since 2009. In the latest survey for 2021, the results reveal governments are having difficulty filling open positions. That is despite the fact that 240,000 of the 943,000 jobs created in July were in the government.

The survey revealed that state and local governments have more job openings than people qualified to fill those roles in many areas. For example, in nursing, 79% of offices have fewer qualified applicants than there are openings. For police, it's 63%, and for information technology employees, it's 58%. Even when it comes to maintenance workers, there is a plurality of 48%.

Another area of concern within the public sector is the startling shift in retirement trends. In 2009, respondents said that 44% of the retirement-eligible staff members were planning to delay their retirement. This year, that figure was only 2%. Moreover, in 2021, 38% of retirement-eligible staff members said they would accelerate their retirement timeline, as opposed to 12% in 2009.

The news doesn't get better in the private sector. Businesses in cities nationwide also have difficulty filling shortages of nurses, truck drivers, IT professionals, and skilled trades workers.

Over the last decade, economists, politicians, and employers have all debated the issue of a "skills gap" and whether one actually exists. Some have called it a "myth." Others claim the low pre-pandemic unemployment rate proved the gap never existed. The pandemic, however, proved the opposite. As more people began working remotely and took the opportunity to retire early, it created an influx of IT-related job opportunities. The increase in cybercrimes, including hacking and ransomware attacks, have created a necessity for more cyber-related jobs for which the private and public sectors are having difficulty filling.

Through his climate and spending proposals, Biden wants to create millions of green energy and construction jobs. Those jobs will also require skilled and educated workers to fill them. Careers such as solar photovoltaic installers, wind turbine service technicians, industrial machinery mechanics, industrial engineers, construction managers, and transit and intercity bus drivers are expected to see high growth rates over the next 7 to 8 years in the private sector. Filling those roles could be made more difficult by creating government jobs meant to take on the same functions.

As the economy continues to grow, minus any dips resulting from the delta variant, Biden will face an uphill battle in convincing Congress the necessity to pass spending bills to create jobs with millions of them available.

Jay Caruso is managing editor of the Washington Examiner magazine.

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Tags: Business, Jobs, Labor, Wages, Joe Biden, Economy, Spending, Congress, Coronavirus

Original Author: Jay Caruso

Original Location: With 10 million job openings, does the government have to create more?