“Essentially anywhere you go in the United States right now, you’re going to encounter “help wanted” signs. But just because a bar or restaurant or gas station wants a worker doesn’t mean a worker wants to work for them. The millions of jobs available aren’t necessarily millions of jobs people want.
“A lot of what people are seeing are low-paying jobs with unpredictable or not-worker-friendly scheduling practices, that don’t come with benefits, don’t come with long-term stability,” Shelly Steward, director of the Future of Work Initiative at the Aspen Institute, told Recode. “And those are not the types of jobs that any worker is eager to take on.””
“Tim Brackney, president and COO of management consulting firm RGP, refers to the current situation as the “great mismatch.” That mismatch refers to a number of things, including desires, experience, and skills. And part of the reason is that the skills necessary for a given job are changing faster than ever, as companies more frequently adopt new software.”
These jobs paid people enough money to live on, even enough to support a family. They provided health insurance so people could go to a doctor if they got sick. They even came with pensions so that once you’d worked for a certain number of years, you could actually stop working. You could rest.
But there was a problem.
These jobs weren’t for everyone. They were mostly for white men, and mostly in certain places, like a factory or an office. For everyone else, there were jobs that paid less, with fewer benefits — or no benefits at all. And over time, there were more and more bad jobs and fewer and fewer good jobs, and even the good jobs started getting less good, and everyone was very tired, and there was not enough money.”
“The pandemic has made matters even worse. Millions of front-line workers risked their lives doing jobs that often offered them little more than poverty-level wages in return. Even for those able to work in the relative safety of their homes, the pandemic often sapped whatever joy, camaraderie, or fulfillment jobs had once offered — 40 percent of workers in one 2020 survey, the majority of them working remotely, reported experiencing burnout during the pandemic. The problem was only compounded for parents and others who took on new caregiving responsibilities, with mothers especially dealing with high levels of exhaustion and depression.
But the pandemic has also been a turning point for many workers, leading them to reevaluate their jobs in the face of new dangers — or a realignment of priorities brought on by a once-in-a-lifetime public health disaster. Indeed, the pandemic has led to record numbers of people quitting their jobs — 4 million this April alone, a phenomenon so widespread it’s been called the Great Resignation.”
“over the past 70 years or so, retail, hospitality, and other service jobs have proliferated while the manufacturing sector and others that once provided well-paid jobs with benefits have shrunk. That’s part of the reason American wages stagnated and more and more people had to go without health insurance (at least before the passage of the Affordable Care Act). “To a degree, the crisis today in work is because of this huge expansion of the service sector, which was not covered by the kind of regulations or unions or social norms that we once expected,” Lichtenstein said.
Other factors, too, combined to make jobs worse. Long hours became more common as more and more workers were declared exempt from the 40-hour standard. The rise of “just-in-time scheduling” made retail and other service work increasingly unpredictable, leaving workers unsure if they’d get enough hours to be able to pay rent, or be able to find child care during their ever-changing shifts. And some jobs themselves changed to become less pleasant. Retail, for example, “moved toward more customer self-service and away from the sort of skilled model of retail selling,” which meant less opportunity to interact with customers and hone sales techniques, and more of an emphasis on mechanically keeping people moving through a store”
“The backlog of forest restoration projects suggests that there are issues on public lands that really need to be addressed, but that is not an argument for creating a vast new federal bureaucracy with as many as 1.5 million government employees.”
“often spend so much time talking about the potential for robots to take our jobs that we fail to look at how they are already changing them — sometimes for the better, but sometimes not. New technologies can give corporations tools for monitoring, managing, and motivating their workforces, sometimes in ways that are harmful. The technology itself might not be innately nefarious, but it makes it easier for companies to maintain tight control on workers and squeeze and exploit them to maximize profits.
“The basic incentives of the system have always been there: employers wanting to maximize the value they get out of their workers while minimizing the cost of labor, the incentive to want to control and monitor and surveil their workers,” said Brian Chen, staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project (NELP). “And if technology allows them to do that more cheaply or more efficiently, well then of course they’re going to use technology to do that.”
Tracking software for remote workers, which saw a bump in sales at the start of the pandemic, can follow every second of a person’s workday in front of the computer. Delivery companies can use motion sensors to track their drivers’ every move, measure extra seconds, and ding drivers for falling short.
Automation hasn’t replaced all the workers in warehouses, but it has made work more intense, even dangerous, and changed how tightly workers are managed. Gig workers can find themselves at the whims of an app’s black-box algorithm that lets workers flood the app to compete with each other at a frantic pace for pay so low that how lucrative any given trip or job is can depend on the tip, leaving workers reliant on the generosity of an anonymous stranger. Worse, gig work means they’re doing their jobs without many typical labor protections.
In these circumstances, the robots aren’t taking jobs, they’re making jobs worse. Companies are automating away autonomy and putting profit-maximizing strategies on digital overdrive, turning work into a space with fewer carrots and more sticks.”
“The economy added 266,000 jobs in April according to today’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), while the unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 6.1 percent, from 6 percent.
These numbers are well below forecasts from economists who predicted that April would see the addition of around 1 million jobs, and the unemployment rate falling to 5.8 percent. The BLS report notes that we’re still far away from a pre-pandemic labor market, when the jobless rate sat at 3.5 percent.
Despite persistent levels of high joblessness, other metrics show signs of a labor market that’s increasingly tight.”
“job openings and the number of workers quitting their jobs were at record highs and that wages were growing at 2019 levels (when the country’s economy was booming).
Employers, meanwhile, find themselves in increasingly dire straits trying to find new workers.”
“what’s causing this weird mismatch between labor supply and demand?
Furman and Powell cite three possible explanations: continual health concerns about contracting COVID-19 at work encouraging some people to stay home, school closures keeping parents out of the workforce, and generous unemployment benefits.
The $300 weekly unemployment supplement provided as part of the March-passed American Rescue Plan pays some 42 percent of workers more than what they made at their old jobs, according to a University of Chicago analysis.
That $300 supplement will continue until September 2021. Today’s jobs report has business interests calling for ending it now.”
“The consensus among economists is that high unemployment benefits were not producing high unemployment rates earlier in the pandemic, when there were so few jobs available, health concerns were more acute, and there was greater uncertainty about when the economy would improve.
Workers who found themselves in that precarious situation would jump at any employment opportunity they could find, even if it paid less than unemployment benefits, the thinking went.
The situation today is much different.
Vaccinations and falling cases and deaths should ameliorate many of the health concerns people have about returning to work. A wealth of job opportunities also means people receiving unemployment benefits now won’t automatically take whatever work they can find. Instead, they can afford to hold out for higher wages or a job that’s a better fit for them.”
“Many Republicans and business groups insist that generous unemployment insurance is a major hindrance to the recovery, arguing that people are sitting out of the workforce because they’re making more money staying home and collecting the extra $300 a week in pandemic benefits put in place by Congress. Half of states, all Republican-led, have decided to shut off unemployment benefits early over the coming weeks. They all made that decision before the May jobs report, a move that even JPMorgan’s economists said was political, not economic.
The evidence suggests that extra unemployment might deter a small sliver of workers but not the vast majority. A working paper out of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco estimated that if seven of 28 workers receive job offers they would normally accept in the early months of this year, just one would say no in order to hold on to the $300.”
“There are plenty of other factors influencing work right now: People are still nervous about the virus, parents lack access to child care, or people are waiting to see if they can get a job at their skill level. A massage therapist who shut down her business at the start of the pandemic told me she doesn’t want to work for minimum wage at McDonald’s; she wants to reopen her business.”
“the economic rebound has been so fast that many businesses, particularly in the hard-hit hospitality sector — which includes restaurants, bars and hotels — have been caught flat-footed and unable to fill all their job openings. Some unemployed people have also been reluctant to look for work because they fear catching the virus.
Others have entered new occupations rather than return to their old jobs. And many women, especially working mothers, have had to leave the workforce to care for children.
Most of the hiring so far represents a bounce-back after tens of millions of positions were lost when the pandemic flattened the economy 14 months ago. The economy remains more than 8 million jobs short of its pre-pandemic level.
The Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion rescue package, approved in early March, has helped maintain Americans’ incomes and purchasing power, much more so than in previous recessions. The economy expanded at a vigorous 6.4% annual rate in the first three months of the year. That pace could accelerate to as high as 13% in the April-June quarter, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
One government report last week showed that wages and benefits rose at a solid pace in the first quarter, suggesting that some companies are having to pay more to attract and keep employees. In fact, the number of open jobs is now significantly above pre-pandemic levels, though the size of the labor force — the number of Americans either working or looking for work — is still smaller by about 4 million people.
In addition, the recovery remains sharply uneven: Most college-educated and white collar employees have been able to work from home over the past year. Many have not only built up savings but have also expanded their wealth as a result of rising home values and a record-setting stock market.
By contrast, job cuts have fallen heavily on low-wage workers, racial minorities and people without college educations. In addition, many women, especially working mothers, have had to leave the workforce to care for children.”