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Workplace Culture

Job openings lag as uncertainty about pandemic, politics persists

Meghan McCarty Carino Jan 12, 2021
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Amid persistent economic doldrums and widespread uncertainty, few companies entered 2021 with expansion in mind. Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images
Workplace Culture

Job openings lag as uncertainty about pandemic, politics persists

Meghan McCarty Carino Jan 12, 2021
Heard on:
Amid persistent economic doldrums and widespread uncertainty, few companies entered 2021 with expansion in mind. Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months.

This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, said Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm.

“Sort of, ‘Fresh start, new year, let’s kick it off,’ ” she said.

But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days.

“I think that we’re still feeling, ‘Let’s just take a pause, let’s just look, let’s just wait,’ ” she said. “We’re all just collectively holding our breath.”

That sense of unease was reflected in lagging job postings at the end of the year on the job search site Indeed.

“Recovery is not happening as quickly as it had been earlier in 2020,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist with Indeed.

Job listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier. The decline was concentrated in industries directly hit by the pandemic like tourism and restaurants, but it was also felt in sectors like tech and finance.

“That’s not because those sectors are doing worse in the pandemic,” Kolko said. “Those higher-wage sectors tend to make longer-term decisions.”

They’re looking at the economic picture months or even years into the future, he said.

And that picture is still pretty murky, said Andy Challenger, senior vice president at staffing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“The economy has been racked with unbelievable uncertainty, both because of the pandemic but also a large amount of political uncertainty.”

Fair to predict, that will likely be the case for some time to come.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

How long will it be until the economy is back to normal?

It feels like things are getting better, more and more people getting vaccinated, more businesses opening, but we’re not entirely out of the woods. To illustrate: two recent pieces of news from the Centers for Disease Control. Item 1: The CDC is extending its tenant eviction moratorium to June 30. Item 2: The cruise industry didn’t get what it wanted — restrictions on sailing from U.S. ports will stay in place until November. Very different issues with different stakes, but both point to the fact that the CDC thinks we still have a ways to go before the pandemic is over, according to Dr. Philip Landrigan, who used to work at the CDC and now teaches at Boston College.

How are those COVID relief payments affecting consumers?

Payments started going out within days of President Joe Biden signing the American Rescue Plan, and that’s been a big shot in the arm for consumers, said John Leer at Morning Consult, which polls Americans every day. “Consumer confidence is really on a tear. They are growing more confident at a faster rate than they have following the prior two stimulus packages.” Leer said this time around the checks are bigger and they’re getting out faster. Now, rising confidence is likely to spark more consumer spending. But Lisa Rowan at Forbes Advisor said it’s not clear how much or how fast.

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