#jobs #workforce #JobsNumbers #COVID19 #coronavirus #FlattenTheCurve
The 467,000 new jobs created in January 2022 were many times more than expected. Yet, “The Great Resignation” is leading people to quit jobs in large numbers. Perhaps, many are going to better jobs, or, at least, different ones.
Despite this good economic news, many have framed the current work/job environment as a case of generous benefits keeping people from looking – or taking – jobs. The January report should dispel that notion.
First, let’s dispense with the idea that people who are not in the job market are lazy.
For most, that’s hardly the case.
What people are doing now, that they may have not done before, is look at the costs, and the risks, against the rewards, of taking a particular job.
Though the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be waning – we could face a surprise new variant at any time, there are still risks to being up close and personal with others, especially where there are no rules or mitigations against viral transmission.
A sick worker is no good to either his or her employer or family. An unvaccinated worker is more likely to get sick and spread the virus. Not knowing whether the person next to you is vaccinated presents its own risk.
Secondly, presuming you have no ability to work from home – most in lower-paying jobs cannot work from home, you have to get to work.
You have to calculate how much of your paycheck is going to commuting. If it costs you a lot to get to work, and you don’t have enough left over after commuting costs to cover your other living expenses, that presents a disincentive to take a job.
Thirdly, if you have young children, and no means to care for them while you are at work, that presents yet another risk to taking a job.
Though most schools are staying open, some have periodic closings prompted by the virus. Perhaps too many students, teachers and staff are ill, or have exposure issues, and cannot be in school.
When too many people are absent, schools close, or go to online options. Of course it’s temporary, but it’s still a problem for a working parent.
The smaller number, and higher cost, of day-care options enlarge the problem for parents.
In short, the labor “shortage” we see is more complicated than government benefits that are too generous.
For some workers, particularly those whose spouse may earn a relatively high income, a worker may also find that his or her lower-paying job is generating an income that primarily pays taxes, and little else. There may be other reasons to hang in a job, i.e. benefits, pension credits etc. But, in some scenarios, one can easily put an entire paycheck into taxes alone.
Just as it may be hard for some employers to get enough people to keep his or her operation going, it may be just as hard for a worker to decide whether it is worth his or her effort to take a job.
In the long term, as birth rates decline and people make life choices that give them more flexibility, there will actually be a labor shortage. In that case, the only solution could be to allow more immigrants, refugees and others to come into the country. In fact, a recent U.S. Census report says the largest segment of population increase is coming from immigrants.
It’s no easy fix, but it is one that we all may have to fix together as a society. Jobs have to be more attractive. Services and solutions need to be available so workers can go to work without fear or worry.
Both employers and employees need to be part of any solution.