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We’re about 3.5 million potential jobs short of a full recovery

Now Hiring signs are displayed in front of restaurants in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, on March 19, 2022. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds / AFP) (Photo by STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

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With the April Jobs Report, the U.S. has now gone a full year with job gains above 400,000 each month.

The economy has now regained more jobs than we lost early in the pandemic — in warehousing and transportation, retail, professional and business services, finance, and mining. Meanwhile, employment in bars and restaurants keeps recovering as consumers return to spending on services again.

Now, the focus has shifted to how long a complete jobs recovery may take.

The world hasn’t sat still since February 2020. The working-age population grew during the pandemic—with immigrants and new graduates, says Elise Gould at the Economic Policy Institute.

“We’re about 3.5 million potential jobs short,” said Gould.

She says if the economy keeps up the current pace of job creation, “I think it’s absolutely realistic for us to get there by the end of this year.”

Some risks to full recovery remain, including continued supply-chain disruptions from COVID and the war in Ukraine. John Leer at polling firm Morning Consult says that as the economic recovery slows with the Fed hiking interest rates to fight inflation, job gains could flag.

“That’s consistent with what we’ve seen in a lot of the past recessions—it just gets harder and harder to keep hiring workers, because initially a lot of these workers were just coming back. As time progresses, workers are more removed from their prior employers,” said Leer.

Leer says many others who haven’t returned to full-time work are still facing health risks or difficulty finding care for family members.

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