Why it’s so hard to fill jobs in some states

The job market recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and related closures is unfolding unevenly across the United States, from states where there are five openings for every unemployed person to multiple where historically high unemployment rates persist.

In some areas, including less populated areas that have imposed fewer Covid-19 restrictions – states like Utah and the Dakotas – the job market is hot, with many employers struggling to fill vacant jobs. Elsewhere, including in urban areas and tourist hubs that have been slower to ease restrictions – such as New York and Hawaii – demand for labor is rebounding more gradually, making labor shortages less. acute.

The workers wanted

North West Mountain, Plains and northern New England stand out for their particularly tight labor market, with around three vacancies for every unemployed job seeker in April, according to an analysis by the research site. ZipRecruiter User Manual.

Jobs by job seeker, April 2021

Jobs by job seeker, April 2021

Jobs by job seeker, April 2021

Several factors are contributing to labor shortages across the country. They include improved unemployment benefits that could be a financial deterrent from taking low-wage jobs, still limited schools and childcare services keeping parents at home, and the fear of Covid-19. In addition to the extent of government restrictions placed on businesses amid the pandemic, additional regional characteristics help distinguish hotter from colder job markets.

Tight markets

The three warm regions had below-average unemployment rates even before the pandemic, although there are different reasons for the current labor market strain.

“Mountain states have become pandemic refugee states,” said Julia Pollak, labor economist at ZipRecruiter. New residents have been attracted by fewer trade restrictions, open space and affordable housing. The new arrivals in turn triggered greater economic activity and increased demand for labor.

Regional unemployment rate

Job offers, change from February 2020

Regional unemployment rate

Job offers, change from February 2020

Regional unemployment rate

Job offers, change from February 2020

North of Mountain West already had growing technological and financial sectors, and those industries fared better during the pandemic than tourism and retail.

Unlike most of the United States, the size of the labor force has increased from 2019 levels in Utah and Idaho, helping to prevent labor shortages from becoming more serious. A similar dynamic exists in South Dakota.

Labor force, change from April 2019

Labor force, change from April 2019

Labor force, change from April 2019

The Plains States had some of the weakest government restrictions on commercial activity and were among the fastest to reopen. These states avoided larger job losses and returned workers to their old jobs faster, said Oren Klachkin, senior US economist at Oxford Economics, a global research firm. The region is also linked to agriculture and food processing, which were considered essential industries and remained open during the pandemic.

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Vermont had the tightest job market in the country with 5.1 jobs available for every unemployed person, although that statistic was not entirely the product of a booming economy. Northern New England’s labor market has long reflected its aging population, low population growth, and the fact that relatively few people move there from elsewhere.

Incomplete recoveries

In other areas, labor markets are recovering more slowly. According to ZipRecruiter, a group of western states and another on the East Coast have about one job vacancy per unemployed worker. Hawaii was in last place according to this measure, with 0.7 posts per job seeker.

Jobs by job seeker, April 2021

Jobs by job seeker, April 2021

Jobs by job seeker, April 2021

Higher unemployment

The unemployment rate in these regions was well above the national average of 6.1% in April. Again, the causes are not uniform.

Unemployment rate, regional average

Job offers, change from February 2020

Unemployment rate, regional average

Job offers, change from February 2020

Unemployment rate, regional average

Job offers, change from February 2020

Hawaii’s economy, dependent on tourism, continues to feel the effects of the pandemic and the resulting travel restrictions. Leisure and hospitality employment in Hawaii remains about 30% below pre-pandemic levels, which translates to hotel occupancy rates below the national average this spring.

The job market in Hawaii shows that there is little connection between positive health outcomes and economic outcomes. State measures to prevent Covid-19, including a 14-day quarantine period last year for people arriving from out of state, have helped it achieve the lowest rate of cases per 1,000 people, according to an analysis of Wall Street Journal data. compiled by Johns Hopkins University. However, the measures taken in Hawaii have also discouraged tourists. North Dakota, on the other hand, had the highest case rate, but much lower unemployment, 4.2% in April.

The New York City area was among the first in the United States to be hit hard by the pandemic. Executives in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut have put in place tough restrictions on activity and have left them in place longer than in many other regions.

February 7

Iowa removes

mask warrant

March 10

Governor of Texas

declares the state

fully reopened

May 19

new York allows

full capacity

indoor dining room

June 15

California

Planning

to lift the most

restrictions

First of April

New York Yankees and Mets allowed to reopen stadiums at 20% capacity

February 7

Iowa removes

mask warrant

March 10

Governor of Texas

declares the state fully

reopened

First of April

New York Yankees and Mets allowed to reopen stadiums at 20% capacity

June 15

California

Planning

to lift the most

restrictions

May 19

new York allows

full capacity

indoor dining room

February 7

Iowa removes

mask warrant

March 10

Governor of Texas

declares the state fully

reopened

May 19

new York

allows

full capacity

indoor dining room

First of April

New York Yankees and Mets allowed to reopen stadiums at 20% capacity

June 15

California Planning

to lift most restrictions

New York only allowed full capacity meals in mid-May. For comparison, Iowa removed activity restrictions during the winter months and Texas was declared fully reopened on March 10.

Similar factors are at play in California. Some activity restrictions will remain in effect until mid-June.

A lackluster recovery in neighboring southwestern states largely reflects industries, including tourism in Nevada and energy in New Mexico, which continue to struggle with the lingering negative effects of the pandemic.

Sources for graphics

ZipRecruiter (job offers by unemployed job seeker); Department of Labor (unemployment rate, leisure and hotel jobs, labor market participation); Indeed (job offers change); WSJ Reports (State Decisions).

Write to Eric Morath at [email protected] and Stephanie Stamm at [email protected]

Copyright © 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8


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