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COVID & Unemployment

Labor shortage? Wage data sends mixed signals.

Mitchell Hartman Jul 2, 2021
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Mario Tama/Getty Images
COVID & Unemployment

Labor shortage? Wage data sends mixed signals.

Mitchell Hartman Jul 2, 2021
Heard on:
Mario Tama/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

How fast is the U.S. economy recovering from the pandemic recession? In an encouraging burst of hiring, America’s employers added 850,000 jobs in June, well above the average of the previous three months. Strong growth continued in leisure and hospitality and other face-to-face service jobs that are ramping back up to full operations.

Still, employers have been complaining loudly about a so-called “labor shortage” — that they’re desperate to hire, but can’t find people available to work right now. Many employers are in fact having trouble staffing up quickly, as consumers emerge from the pandemic ready to shop, eat out and go to ballgames.

But, “there really isn’t any evidence of widespread labor shortage,” said Valerie Wilson at the Economic Policy Institute.

If there were, Wilson said, employers would be jacking up wages across the board to entice unemployed workers. Instead, there are some pockets of wage acceleration, “in leisure and hospitality. A big boost in those wages is the fact that they’re getting more tips now because more people are coming to those restaurants in person.”

A lot of job postings now offer cash hiring bonuses, said AnnElizabeth Konkel at the job website Indeed, in transportation, construction and personal services—but not so much in food service and tourism. (Indeed is a Marketplace underwriter.)

“And maybe some employers are thinking like, ‘Hey, if there’s an elevated unemployment rate, well, I don’t need to offer a cash incentive,’ ” Konkel said, but, they may have to.

With reporting from The Associated Press

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