During COVID, unemployment rose to obscenely high numbers, breaching any peaks this country had seen in almost 40 years. Government stimulus checks satisfied the need for immediate relief, but many issues caused the effects of a struggling job market to linger.

With vaccinations and booster shots on the rise and COVID cases trending down, the outlook is no longer so grim. Companies that have survived the last year are looking to ramp up their productivity once again, but they're finding a workforce with the lowest participation rate since the 1970s. This August saw a record number of people quitting their jobs.

So, why aren't people working?

From our perspective, lots of reasons.

Child Care

Prior to the pandemic, around half of U.S. families reported having trouble finding care for young children. Mid-late 2020, and a global pandemic, saw that number rise to two thirds of families, but not much has changed since - it's still a challenge to find child care, and there are even more kids requiring it. Any school reopenings this fall were counterbalanced by a quick-spreading Delta variant and ultra sensitive school closings. Younger, more vulnerable children are in many cases kept at home, in an effort to mitigate risk or in response to schools and centers being closed. And working parents are left with the responsibility of daytime care for their children.

Unemployment Benefits

Many companies can't afford large salaries during this period of pandemic recovery. Their hiring might be back to 2019 levels, but that doesn't mean their employee package is enticing enough to draw a pool of applicants. Additional unemployment benefits were generous and only ended recently, in some cases providing more income than a previously held job had, so the unemployed were less tempted to jump back into the job market.

Stimulus Payments

Alongside the decent unemployment benefits came multiple stimulus checks, dispersed over the last year and intended to ease this period of nationwide loss of income, removing the instability behind people's financial situations. A lessened incentive to find new employment, added to lack of child care and other personal struggles during the pandemic, means there are fewer job seekers.

Changed Values

Employees are demanding more from their employers, after time working from home held a magnifying glass up to their work-life balance. Commutes, pointless meetings, long hours, and meager salaries are keeping people from jumping into anything new without substantial consideration. Priorities have been reevaluated. 

Early Retirements

A less than ideal working situation pushed many on the verge of retirement over the edge. Boomer retirements more than doubled in 2020 from the previous year, removing a significant number of people from the workforce.

Fading Skills

Being sidelined for so long keeps many people out of practice, losing skills needed for jobs they once had. Lack of time or ability to prioritize relearning these skills means lower self esteem and confidence, holding many back from applying to jobs similar to what they held previously. Even though a skill lapse during these times would be easily explained, it can be an inhibiting factor to putting oneself out there.

There are jobs out there. And there are job seekers out there. But with many micro-shifts in the priorities and needs of the unemployed workforce, it may take some time before companies see their applicant pools grow. 

Posted: 11/3/2021 2:04:19 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments