Unfilled jobs could grow to 2 million by 2030 ‘if we don’t get it under control’: NAM president
National Association of Manufacturers CEO and President Jay Timmons joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the November jobs report and why immigration reform could potentially help ease worker shortages.
SEANA SMITH: Manufacturing opening climbing in November, the sector adding 14,000 workers in the month of November alone. There is, though, a huge challenge that's facing the industry. And that's filling the more than 700,000 openings. So joining us now to talk a little bit more about that and some of the other data that we've gotten out this week, we want to bring in Jay Timmons, National Association of Manufacturers CEO and president. Jay, it's great to have you on the program. Great to have you here in studio today.
JAY TIMMONS: Nice to be here in person instead of on video.
SEANA SMITH: I know, I know. It's great here. So, Jay, let's talk about that piece of data that we got out this morning. 14,000 jobs added to the manufacturing sector. We also got the manufacturing index yesterday, showing a bit of a cooling there, pulling back, contracting for the first time since 2020. I guess, just your takeaway from what we have seen play out over the last several months.
JAY TIMMONS: Yeah, the good news, bad news, good news, bad news thing?
SEANA SMITH: Exactly.
JAY TIMMONS: So--
SEANA SMITH: It's hard to make sense of everything that's going on there.
JAY TIMMONS: Yeah, well, some of the good news is, we have added more jobs in the last two years than at any time. So in '21 and '22, we've added more jobs in those two years than have been added since the Reagan administration, '83 and '84. So that's an amazing amount of job growth.
At the same time, as you mentioned, we have hundreds of thousands of jobs we can't fill. The monthly average is 830,000 jobs that we can't fill. That number will grow to 2 million unfilled jobs by the year 2030 if we don't get it under control. So that's the good news, bad news on the jobs front.
Now, on the health of the sector, cooling down a bit is one way to put it. I'd say the water is tepid right now. And that number is just right under 50. So technically, it means a contraction, but it's really close.
SEANA SMITH: So you're not too worried just about what that could potentially signal in terms of a recession?
JAY TIMMONS: No, I think what's happened, I mean, you think about the trillions of dollars we pumped into the economy during the pandemic. And that money had to wash its way out of the system. And when it was doing that, there was a tremendous demand for our products. And we had little supply. One of the reasons we had less supply than necessary was we didn't have the people to make the products.
So I think that that's now catching up. We were able to start ramping up production. So now I think there's a bit of-- the inventories are a bit full right now, but that'll come wash its way out.
SEANA SMITH: And Jay, when we talk about the huge challenge facing the sector, more than 700,000 job openings-- I know something you and I have talked about in the past. When you see it on a larger scale, though, there's over 10 million job openings right now in the economy. How long is it going to take to close that gap? And I guess, what's the best pathway forward in order to do that?
JAY TIMMONS: Wow. I mean, how long do we have? Because there are so many potential solutions, and there is really no one magic bullet. But what I do know that we need to do is we need to get serious about immigration reform.
SEANA SMITH: And how will that help?
JAY TIMMONS: So that's a piece. So H-2A, H-2B, bringing those folks in temporary protected status into the workforce. We have 100,000 Ukrainians we invited here. We have 100,000 Afghanis that we invited here. But we don't give them the ability to work. We don't give them a work permit. They're in line, waiting to get that work permit. That's just crazy. We have 200,000 people that could work today if we could just get through the bureaucracy, cut through all that. So that's just one piece of the puzzle.
The other piece of the puzzle, I think, will help correct itself. There's a lot of folks that are kind of sitting on the sidelines right now because during the pandemic, it was a different-- people reprioritized their lives. And I think a lot of people said, I'm going to wait and see what I want to do. So for us, we say, hey, look at manufacturing because if you want excitement and a rewarding career for the rest of your working life, you need to come look at manufacturing.
So part of our challenge, when you talk about 10 million open jobs, is, we're now competing. We weren't doing this before the pandemic. We had open jobs, and we wanted to figure out how to change the perception of our industry. Today, we're competing against every other sector of the economy to try to encourage people to come into manufacturing.
SEANA SMITH: And Jay, going back to that first point there on immigration reform, on the conversations that you've had, especially who you've been talking to on Capitol Hill, are you confident that we will see some sort of progress there?
JAY TIMMONS: I'm confident that if we focus on the economy and we put aside kind of the extreme positions on both sides of this issue, and we simply say, OK, what do we need to do piecemeal to improve our economy or to protect our economy from the fact that we don't have enough workers, I think we can get pieces of immigration reform done. Is it going to be everything? No, it's not.
But I do think that-- well, there's not one member of Congress or the Senate I've talked to who says, you know what? Just as a matter of principle, I'm going to let the American economy tank. That's not good for anybody. So I do believe there is a path forward. And we're working pretty hard to see that happen with quiet discussions with members of Congress.
SEANA SMITH: Jay, another big piece of news this week, President Biden this morning actually signing the legislation to avert a rail strike. We obviously know that the potential-- the devastating effect that that could have had on the economy. Just, your take on what was actually signed and the fact that the paid sick leave was not included in that.
JAY TIMMONS: So, look, kudos to the president and to Secretary Walsh and the Secretary Buttigieg, to Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate that realized this could have been crippling to the economy during the holiday season if we had a rail strike. This is a procedure that has been enacted 18 times in the last 100 years. So there's precedent for it.
It has, from everything I've seen-- I don't represent that particular segment-- specifically that segment of the economy. But it looks like a pretty good package. I mean, there's up to five weeks of leave, on average, for four rail workers when you include sick and vacation and personal leave. I think a couple of negotiations ago, the union wanted to put all of those into one basket and not label it, one way or the other. So it was a little surprising to me to see now they wanted to carve out a sick leave category.
I think these are discussions that have to occur between management and the union because, look, we all know that we rely on our teams. We want our teams to be happy and productive. And I know-- I happen to know the CEOs of the major rail lines. And I they want their teams to be fulfilled and happy. So I'm sure these discussions will continue.
SEANA SMITH: Yeah. All right, well, Jay Timmons, great to have you in the studio. Thanks so much for taking the time to join us this afternoon.
JAY TIMMONS: Thank you. It's great to be here.
SEANA SMITH: We hope to have you back in New York City again soon.
JAY TIMMONS: I hope to be here.
SEANA SMITH: All right, have a great weekend there--