Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Where are the Job Openings?

Popular Economics Weekly

Calculated Risk

The number of job openings increased to a series high of 10.9 million on the last business day of July, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Job openings increased in several industries, with the largest increases in health care and social assistance (+294,000); finance and insurance (+116,000); and accommodation and food services (+115,000).

Health care job openings surged because the Covid-19 Delta variant is filling hospitals again, while surging consumer spending on leisure and travel is creating a higher demand for jobs in finance, accommodation and food services.

And now we have looming school openings, which could foster even more job openings, if teachers are reluctant to return to work because of conflicting mask mandates in red states, which I reported last week, and induces classroom shutdowns with quarantines affecting those not vaccinated or wearing masks.

As of September 2, over 5 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic, reports the American Academy of Pediatrics. Although a lower percentage of them are hospitalized, it is putting a burden on school openings.

The number of children and teens suffering from the coronavirus-borne illness COVID-19 exceeded 250,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic in the week through Sept. 2, a worrying trend coming just as they return to school in person.

The current 7-day moving average of daily new cases (153,246) increased 4.9% compared with the previous 7-day moving average (146,087), said the CDC. The current 7-day moving average is 123.6% higher than the value observed approximately one year ago (68,533 new cases on July 20, 2020).

It really looks like there is too much uncertainty keeping many workers from returning to work. Total hiring slipped for the first time this year. Job hires fell by 160,000 to 6.7 million, with hiring in the retail sector down sharply. This is while separations rose 174,000 to 5.8 million. This includes those fired and those who left the job.

What will bring them back? More vaccinations and mask mandates will be most effective, according to experts, with CNN saying President Joe Biden will push for vaccine mandates and testing programs as part of a revamped approach to ending the pandemic.

As American students return to classrooms, battles over masks and vaccine requirements for older children have erupted in school districts around the country, as I’ve said. Health officials say they expect vaccines to be authorized for children under 12 in the next several months, but parents have become frustrated at the pace with which the process is unfolding.

So, although the huge number of job openings show economic activity speeding up, some of the country still needs convincing that the coronavirus pandemic must be vanquished.

Harlan Green © 2021

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