The government’s report on hiring and unemployment for May, out on Friday, shows solid jobs gains for the U.S. economy, although for the second month in a row the rise wasn’t as high as expected. U.S. employers added 559,000 jobs in May, an improvement from April’s sluggish gain but still evidence that many companies are struggling to find enough workers as the economy rapidly recovers from the pandemic recession. There are other signs that the labor market continues to improve: job postings are up, jobless claims are down, workers are putting in more hours.
At the moment, the economy is employing around 7.5 million fewer people than just before the pandemic hit. And some of those jobs probably aren’t coming back, leaving a mismatch between the workers who need jobs, and the jobs employers need filled.
Sectors like manufacturing and logistics are booming, and employers say they desperately need new workers. But Dave Gilbertson, vice president at payroll-processor UKG, which is a Marketplace underwriter, said these positions aren’t so easy to fill. “They’re highly skilled jobs, and it takes a while for a potential employee to build up that skill set.”
Meanwhile, some employers have invested heavily in labor-saving technology like artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics, while people were staying home during the pandemic.
Economist Art Goldsmith at Washington and Lee University said that actually presents a new opportunity for job retraining, “to help jobless people acquire the skills to work with industrial robotics, sensor systems, to produce more. You can be highly trained, and you don’t need necessarily a college degree.”
Goldsmith suggests public-private partnerships could be created to train unemployed workers to manage the new technology that’s displacing other jobs. Those could include everything from factory workers to bank tellers to accountants.
With reporting from The Associated Press