Job openings reached near-record levels in October, driven by a big uptick in job postings at restaurants. We’ve been hearing for months now that restaurants are having trouble filling positions.
But other parts of the economy are having some success finding workers. In particular, state and local education.
The report found that education was a bright spot in October, when it comes to jobs.
“Job openings and hires rose, as quits ticked down,” said Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute.
She said that’s an encouraging sign, given that employment in education still hasn’t returned to where it was before the pandemic.
“Particularly state and local education employment. Which we know has still been pretty far below its pre-pandemic levels,” she said.
A lot of the new hires in October were in educational support roles.
“For every teacher, there are janitors, and secretaries, and cafeteria workers, who support that teacher,” said labor economist Teresa Ghilarducci at the New School.
She said many of those workers lost their jobs early in the pandemic. Now that schools have reopened this year, “we’re seeing teachers come back, and then the two or three workers that support each teacher also coming back,” she said.
School districts have also benefited from government relief aid, said Nick Johnson, who follows state fiscal policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
“That was so important to enabling states and localities, including school districts, to have the resources to bring workers back,” he said.
Despite that Johnson says school districts still have a lot of unmet staffing needs, especially when it comes to public health.
“You know, schools still need school nurses, we still need folks out there helping with outreach on immunizations,” he said.
Whatever the specific needs, state and local governments in general took a big employment hit when the pandemic started, and have only brought back a fraction of the workers they lost.
He said that’s worrying given the role local governments play in an economic recovery.
“States and localities spend most of their money on health care, education, human services, things that are really critical to the recovery for families and communities,” he said.
The Labor Department found that excluding education, state and local government hiring fell in October.
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