More stories

  • in

    Omicron’s Economic Toll: Missing Workers, More Uncertainty and Higher Inflation (Maybe)

    The Omicron wave of the coronavirus appears to be cresting in much of the country. But its economic disruptions have made a postpandemic normal ever more elusive.Forecasters have slashed their estimates for economic growth in the first three months of 2022. Some expect January to show the first monthly decline in employment in more than a year. And retail sales and manufacturing production fell in December, suggesting that the impact began well before cases hit their peak.“Those are Omicron’s fingerprints,” said Constance L. Hunter, chief economist for the accounting firm KPMG. “It will slow growth in the beginning of the first quarter.”On Monday, global markets were in a frenzy, with the S&P 500 plunging nearly 4 percent before recovering its losses. Market analysts said the early declines reflected fears that the Federal Reserve might need to respond more aggressively than expected to rapidly rising prices, a prospect that some economists say has been made more likely by Omicron.Recovery prospects in the longer run are uncertain. Some economists say even temporary job losses could force consumers to pull back their spending, especially now that federal programs that helped families early in the pandemic have largely ended. Others worry that Omicron could compound supply-chain backlogs both in the United States and overseas, prolonging the recent bout of high inflation and putting pressure on the Fed to act. But some see Omicron as the equivalent of a severe winter storm, causing disruptions and delays but ultimately doing little permanent economic damage. The recovery has proved resilient so far, they argue, and has enough underlying momentum to carry it through.“There are so many potential ways that this could go,” said Tara Sinclair, an economist at George Washington University. “We didn’t even agree on where we were going without Omicron, and then you throw Omicron on top.”Omicron is aggravating labor shortages.Travelers at Kennedy International Airport last month. Airlines canceled thousands of flights over the holidays because so many crew members were out sick.Karsten Moran for The New York TimesMore than 8.7 million Americans weren’t working in late December and early January because they had Covid-19 or were caring for someone who did, according to the latest estimate from the Census Bureau’s experimental Household Pulse Survey. Another 5.3 million were taking care of children who were home from school or day care. The cumulative impact is larger than at any other point in the pandemic.Covid-related absences are creating headaches for businesses that were struggling to hire workers even before Omicron. Restaurants and retail stores have cut back hours. Broadway shows called off performances. Airlines canceled thousands of flights over the holidays because so many crew members called in sick; on one day last month, nearly a third of United Airlines workers at Newark Liberty International Airport, a major hub, called in sick.The Status of U.S. JobsMore Workers Quit Than Ever: A record number of Americans — more than 4.5 million people — ​​voluntarily left their jobs in November.Jobs Report: The American economy added 210,000 jobs in November, a slowdown from the prior month.Analysis: The number of new jobs added in November was below expectations, but the report shows that the economy is on the right track.Jobless Claims Plunge: Initial unemployment claims for the week ending Nov. 20 fell to 199,000, their lowest point since 1969.At Designer Paws Salon, a pet grooming company with two locations in the Columbus, Ohio, area, business has been strong in recent months, thanks in part to a pandemic boom in pet ownership. But Misty Gieczys, the company’s founder and chief executive, has been struggling to fill 11 positions despite generous benefits and pay that can reach $95,000 a year in commissions and tips.Omicron has only made things worse, she said. Since Christmas, she has received only three job applications, and just one applicant got back to her after she reached out. Then Ms. Gieczys, who has two young daughters, got Covid-19 herself for the second time, forcing her to stay home. That, on top of day care shutdowns because of the virus, has meant she has spent a significant amount of time away from work.“If I wasn’t the owner, I think I would be fired, honestly,” she said.But while the Omicron wave has contributed to businesses’ staffing woes, there is little sign so far that it has set back the job market recovery more generally. New filings for unemployment insurance have risen only modestly in recent weeks, suggesting that employers are holding on to their workers. Job postings on the career site Indeed have edged down only slightly from record highs.“It’s a vast difference from 2020, where there were mass layoffs,” said Jason Furman, a Harvard economist who was an adviser to President Barack Obama. “Now employers are holding on to people because they expect to be in business in a month.”The new variant could make inflation worse (or maybe better).When the pandemic began in early 2020, it was a shock to both supply and demand, as companies and their customers pulled back in the face of the virus.With each successive wave, however, the impact on demand has gotten smaller. Businesses and consumers learned to adapt. Federal aid helped prop up people’s income. And more recently, the availability of vaccines and improved treatment options have made many people comfortable resuming more normal activities.Supply problems have been slower to dissipate, and in some cases have gotten worse as production and shipping backlogs have grown. If Omicron follows the same pattern, limiting the supply of goods and workers while doing little to dent consumers’ willingness to spend, it could lead to faster inflation.“What should happen is the supply shock should be much larger than the demand shock,” said Aditya Bhave, senior economist at Bank of America. “All of that just means more inflation.”But Omicron’s impact on inflation is not straightforward. Retail sales fell 1.9 percent in December, and restaurant reservations on OpenTable have fallen in January. That suggests that the record-breaking number of coronavirus cases is having an effect on demand, even if it is more muted than in past waves.The latest Covid surge is also the first to hit after the expiration of enhanced unemployment benefits, the expanded child tax credit and most other emergency federal aid programs. Nearly a quarter of private-sector workers get no paid sick time, meaning that even a temporary absence from work could force them to cut back spending now that government benefits aren’t replacing lost income.“That stimulus pay really helped push people past their reticence and say, ‘It’s OK to spend,’” said Nela Richardson, chief economist for ADP, the payroll company. “Now there’s no big push in stimulus, and so people might change their spending behavior.”One possibility is that Omicron could reduce inflation in the short term, as consumers pull back spending, but increase it in the longer run, as the virus leads to shutdowns in Asia that could prolong supply-chain disruptions.Increased uncertainty could cause longer-run damage.Testing facilities were inundated as the Omicron variant took off last month. Covid-related absences are creating headaches for businesses.Kim Raff for The New York TimesCozy Earth, a bamboo bedding and clothing company based in Salt Lake City, was poised to start 2022 on a strong note. Then Omicron “just hit the brakes on us,” said Tyler Howells, the company’s founder and president.Over a three-week period, roughly two-thirds of the company’s 50 employees contracted the virus. A group of web developers flew in for a meeting, but one tested positive, so the meeting had to be canceled. A contractor that was producing signs for an upcoming trade show put the order on hold for a few weeks because too many employees were sick. With so many people out sick in early January, Mr. Howells shut down the office for more than a week.Still, the direct damage to Cozy Earth’s business has been manageable, Mr. Howells said. He is more concerned about the subtler toll that each new false dawn takes on his business, and his ability to plan for the future.“If it continues, it will be a problem,” he said. “It will create damage to the business in terms of fits and starts.”Ms. Sinclair, the George Washington University economist, said the most lasting consequence of the Omicron wave might be the way it had again upended the plans of both businesses and workers. Every time that happens, she said, it increases the risk of permanent damage: Project delays turn into cancellations; expansion plans are abandoned; people who had been thinking about returning to work decide to retire instead.“This piling on of compounding uncertainty is causing further damage,” she said. “This uncertainty is particularly damaging because families aren’t able to make plans, businesses aren’t able to make plans, policymakers aren’t able to make plans.” More

  • in

    Job Openings Report Shows Record Number of Workers Quit in November

    The number of Americans quitting their jobs is the highest on record, as workers take advantage of strong employer demand to pursue better opportunities.More than 4.5 million people voluntarily left their jobs in November, the Labor Department said Tuesday. That was up from 4.2 million in October and was the most in the two decades that the government has been keeping track.The surge in quitting in recent months — along with the continuing difficulty reported by employers in filling openings — underscores the strange, contradictory moment facing the U.S. economy after two years of pandemic-induced disruptions.

    .dw-chart-subhed {
    line-height: 1;
    margin-bottom: 6px;
    font-family: nyt-franklin;
    color: #121212;
    font-size: 15px;
    font-weight: 700;
    }

    Number of People Who Quit Jobs by Month
    Note: Voluntary quits, excluding retirements, seasonally adjustedSource: Bureau of Labor StatisticsBy The New York TimesMuch of the discussion about the increase in quitting, sometimes referred to as the Great Resignation, has focused on white-collar workers re-evaluating their priorities in the pandemic. But job turnover has been concentrated in hospitality and other low-wage sectors, where intense competition for employees has given workers the leverage to seek better pay.“This Great Resignation story is really more about lower-wage workers finding new opportunities in a reopening labor market and seizing them,” said Nick Bunker, director of economic research at the Indeed Hiring Lab.For some workers, the rush to reopen the economy has created a rare opportunity to demand better pay and working conditions. But for those who can’t change jobs as easily, or who are in sectors where demand isn’t as strong, pay gains have been more modest, and have been overwhelmed by faster inflation. Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta shows that job-switchers are getting significantly faster pay increases than people who stay in their jobs..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-1kpebx{margin:0 auto;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1kpebx{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1gtxqqv{margin-bottom:0;}.css-1g3vlj0{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1g3vlj0{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-1g3vlj0 strong{font-weight:600;}.css-1g3vlj0 em{font-style:italic;}.css-1g3vlj0{margin-bottom:0;margin-top:0.25rem;}.css-19zsuqr{display:block;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}Faster pay increases and faster inflation are both at least partly a result of the remarkable strength of the economic recovery. After collapsing in the first weeks of the pandemic, consumer spending quickly rebounded and eventually reached record levels, helped by hundreds of billions of dollars in federal aid. Businesses, whipsawed by the sudden reversals, struggled to keep up with demand, leading to supply chain snarls, labor shortages and rising prices.The stubborn nature of the pandemic itself contributed to the problems, upending spending patterns and keeping workers on the sidelines.

    .dw-chart-subhed {
    line-height: 1;
    margin-bottom: 6px;
    font-family: nyt-franklin;
    color: #121212;
    font-size: 15px;
    font-weight: 700;
    }

    Number of Job Openings Per Month
    Note: Seasonally adjustedSource: Bureau of Labor StatisticsBy The New York TimesThere are signs that the worst of the turbulence was beginning to ease late last year. The number of job openings posted by employers fell in November, the Labor Department said Tuesday, though it remained high by historical standards. Hiring picked up, too. Earlier data showed that more people returned to the labor force in November, and various measures of supply-chain pressures have begun to ease.But that was before the explosion in coronavirus cases linked to the Omicron variant, which has forced airlines to cancel flights, businesses to delay return-to-office plans and school districts to return temporarily to remote learning. Forecasters say the latest Covid-19 wave is all but certain to prolong the economic uncertainty, though it is too soon to say how it will affect inflation, spending or the job market.Despite the demand for workers and the pay increases landed by some, Americans are pessimistic about the economy. Only 21 percent of adults said their finances were better off than a year ago, according to a survey released Tuesday — down from 26 percent when the question was asked a year earlier, even though, by most measures, the economy had improved substantially during that period. The survey of 5,365 adults was conducted last month for The New York Times by Momentive, the online research firm formerly known as SurveyMonkey.Overall consumer confidence is at the lowest level in the nearly five years Momentive has been conducting its survey. Republicans have been particularly pessimistic about the economy since President Biden took office a year ago, but in recent months, Democrats, too, have become more dour. Other surveys have found similar results.Inflation appears to be a big reason for people’s dark outlook. Most respondents in the Momentive survey said inflation had not yet had a major effect on their finances. But nearly nine in 10 said they were at least “somewhat concerned” about inflation, and six in 10 said they were “very concerned.” Worries about inflation cross generational, racial and even partisan lines: 95 percent of Republicans, 88 percent of independents and 82 percent of Democrats say they are concerned.“Pretty much the only group of people who say they’re better off now than they were a year ago are people who’ve gotten a pay raise that matches or beats inflation,” said Laura Wronski, a research scientist at Momentive.There aren’t many of them. Only 17 percent of workers say they have received raises that kept up with inflation over the past year. Most of the rest say either that they have received raises that lagged price increases or that they have received no raise at all; 8 percent of respondents said they had taken a pay cut.Government data likewise shows that, in the aggregate, prices have risen faster than pay in recent months: The Consumer Price Index rose 6.8 percent in November, a nearly four-decade high; average hourly earnings rose 4.8 percent in November, and other measures likewise show pay gains lagging price increases.Yet some workers are seeing much faster wage growth. Hourly earnings for leisure and hospitality workers were up 12.3 percent in November, much faster than inflation. Workers in other low-wage service sectors are also seeing strong gains.Businesses in Brooklyn advertised open positions.Gabby Jones for The New York TimesIn the Momentive survey, respondents who reported voluntarily changing jobs during the pandemic were more likely to say their wages had kept up with inflation, and more likely to rate the economy highly overall. Those who were laid off during the pandemic, or who have kept the same job throughout, were less likely to say their wages had kept pace.Somer Welch, a 40-year-old survey respondent in Maine, lost her job in the pandemic when the brewpub where she worked shut down. She has since found a job at another restaurant, but her earnings haven’t fully rebounded. Her husband, who works at a local ship builder, has kept his job throughout the pandemic, other than a brief furlough, but he hasn’t gotten a raise.The result: The family is losing ground relative to inflation.“The cost of things rose, our rent increased, while our income decreased,” Ms. Welch said. The couple was able to build up some savings early in the pandemic, but that rainy-day fund has been largely depleted. “The rainy day came a lot sooner than we expected,” she said.Ms. Welch isn’t ready to join the ranks of the quitters. She likes her job and its flexible hours. But she knows there are better-paying jobs out there, she said, and she will consider making a move if rising prices make it hard to afford basic needs for her four-person family.Workers like Ms. Welch might have leverage in theory, said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at the career site Glassdoor. But to take advantage of that leverage, they have to be willing to use it.“At a time when employers are competing and raising wages so quickly, if you’re not switching jobs right now then you can get left behind by the market,” Mr. Zhao said.Mr. Zhao said it wasn’t clear whether concerns about inflation were directly contributing to people’s decision to switch jobs. But mentions of “inflation” in reviews on Glassdoor by companies’ current or former employees were up 385 percent in December from a year ago.About the survey: Data in this article came from an online survey of 5,365 adults conducted by the polling firm Momentive from Dec. 14 to Dec. 19. The company selected respondents at random from the nearly three million people who take surveys on its platform each day. Responses were weighted to match the demographic profile of the population of the United States. The survey has a modeled error estimate (similar to a margin of error in a standard telephone poll) of plus or minus 2 percentage points, so differences of less than that amount are statistically insignificant. More

  • in

    As Workers Gain Pay Leverage, Nonprofits Can’t Keep Up

    Schools and social assistance agencies face staffing shortages as they compete with businesses able to raise wages — and services are suffering.In a Northern California school district, the superintendent is taking shifts as a lunchroom monitor. In Louisville, Ky., nonprofit groups are losing social workers to better-paying jobs at Walmart and McDonald’s. And in Rhode Island, child welfare organizations are turning away families from early-intervention programs because they are short of personnel.The nationwide labor shortage in recent months has led to delayed shipments, long waits at restaurants and other frustrations for customers and employers alike. But many for-profit businesses have been able to overcome their staffing difficulties, at least in part, by offering higher wages to attract workers.For many nonprofit and public-sector employers, however, raising pay isn’t an option, at least without persuading state legislators to approve budget increases or voters to approve higher taxes. That is leading to a wave of departures and rising vacancy rates as their salaries fall further behind their for-profit counterparts. And it is in some cases making it difficult for them to deliver the services they exist to provide.“We’ve lost our ability to be competitive,” said Carrie Miranda, executive director of Looking Upwards, a nonprofit in Middletown, R.I., that works with adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities and other health care needs. “When a new person comes to the door, I can’t say yes to them, and they desperately need the services.”Looking Upwards, like many similar organizations across the country, receives most of its funding through state contracts that pay a fixed reimbursement rate for the services they provide. In many states, including Rhode Island, funding levels had been failing to keep up with rising costs even before the pandemic.But the recent acceleration in wage growth, particularly in low-paying industries, has left them hopelessly behind the curve. At Looking Upwards, pay starts at $15.75 an hour for jobs that can be physically taxing and emotionally draining; the Wendy’s down the street is offering $17 an hour for some positions.“We used to compete with hospitals and other health care entities, and now we’re competing with the convenience stores, the fast food places, the coffee shops,” Ms. Miranda said. “I’ve heard more and more people say, ‘I’d love to stay in this job, I’m passionate about the work, but I need to feed my family, I have to pay my rent.’”.css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-1kpebx{margin:0 auto;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1kpebx{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1gtxqqv{margin-bottom:0;}.css-1g3vlj0{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1g3vlj0{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-1g3vlj0 strong{font-weight:600;}.css-1g3vlj0 em{font-style:italic;}.css-1g3vlj0{margin-bottom:0;margin-top:0.25rem;}.css-19zsuqr{display:block;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}When Steffy Molina graduated from college in 2017, she wanted a job where she could make a difference in the lives of people like her, an immigrant who spoke no English when she came to the United States at age 17. She moved to Providence, where she found a job with Family Service of Rhode Island, helping to arrange health care, nutrition support and other services for families with young children.Ms. Molina, now 27, found the work rewarding. But at $16 an hour, it was hard to make ends meet. Even after earning a master’s degree, she saw little path toward a livable wage.So Ms. Molina left Family Service shortly before the pandemic to take a better-paying job at a nonprofit that relied less on government contracts. And this year, she left nonprofit work to join a for-profit health care technology company, where she earns about $75,000 a year.Ms. Molina says she likes her new job, and still feels she is making a difference. But she misses being able to help families directly.“I loved the work, just the satisfaction of being able to work with a child or a family,” she said. “Even if they could have paid $18, I would have stayed.”Wage pressures aren’t hitting all nonprofits equally. Some organizations, mostly outside of social services, have endowments or other funding sources that make it easier for them to raise pay. And some states regularly adjust reimbursement rates to reflect prevailing wage levels or have used federal aid money to make ad hoc adjustments.Nonprofit employment has lagged in the recoveryChange since Feb. 2020 in employment among private-sector wage and salary workers

    Source: Current Population Survey via IPUMSBy The New York TimesBut government data suggests that the nonprofit sector as a whole is struggling to compete. Nonprofit organizations didn’t cut as many jobs as for-profit businesses early in the pandemic, but they have struggled to rehire: Total nonprofit employment in November was 4.8 percent below its prepandemic level, compared with a 1.5 percent employment gap in the for-profit sector, according to a New York Times analysis of Current Population Survey data. That is despite a sharp increase in demand for many nonprofit services during the pandemic.“We can’t just increase the cost of care,” said Micah Jorrisch, vice president at Maryhurst, a Kentucky nonprofit. “We aren’t Starbucks. We can’t add 50 cents to the cost of a cup of coffee.”At Maryhurst, which provides help to children suffering neglect and abuse, the staffing shortage was so severe that the board recently agreed to raise wages for frontline workers, in some cases by as much as 28 percent. But the organization didn’t receive any permanent increase in state funding to pay for those raises, meaning it will have to cut costs elsewhere or raise extra money from private donors.Neither approach is sustainable, Mr. Jorrisch said. And the organization still has a vacancy rate of about 30 percent — just this month, Maryhurst lost one of its longest-tenured supervisors to a job at Kroger, the supermarket chain.Many public-sector employers are facing similar problems. Billions of dollars of federal aid to state and local governments during the pandemic helped prevent the budget crises that some experts initially feared. But many local officials are wary of offering permanent wage increases based on short-term federal assistance.“It is very dangerous for us to set precedent using one-time funding to create larger salaries unless there is clarity that that funding will continue,” said John Malloy, superintendent of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, east of Oakland, Calif.Mr. Malloy says his district has an unusually large number of vacant teaching positions. But as in many school districts, the larger challenge is outside the classroom, where they are competing more directly with rapidly rising private-sector wages. School bus drivers can earn far more making deliveries for Amazon. Cafeteria workers and custodians can make better money doing similar work at for-profit companies. This fall, Mr. Malloy resorted to asking central-office staff, including himself, to take shifts supervising students at lunchtime.Wages aren’t the only challenge. School superintendents say they are also battling burnout after close to two years of remote and hybrid learning, battles over mask and vaccine mandates, and other issues. And schools can’t offer remote work or flexible schedules to help compensate for lower pay.Similar issues face nonprofits, especially those involved in child welfare, mental health and other direct services. Demand for many services has soared during the pandemic, straining already thin staffs. Education and human services also disproportionately employ women, who have borne the brunt of the child care crisis that has emerged during the pandemic.Most economists expect the rapid wage growth among lower-paid workers to slow as the pandemic eases and more people return to the labor force. But even if the immediate staffing trouble abates, it could have long-term consequences. People who leave the field in search of better pay could be unlikely to return. And students won’t choose the field if they don’t believe they can earn a livable wage.“It’s a field that’s becoming unattractive,” said Beth Bixby, chief executive officer of Tides Family Services, a Rhode Island nonprofit.Ms. Bixby said one veteran employee, who works in a program for at-risk children, had recently told her that she was earning the same amount — $17 an hour — as her 17-year-old daughter, who works part time at a cosmetics retailer.“It’s demoralizing,” Ms. Bixby said. More

  • in

    Jobless for a Year? Employment Gaps Might Be Less of a Problem Now.

    People who were out of work for a while have typically found it much harder to get a job. The pandemic may have changed how employers view people who have been unemployed for months or years.Jamie Baxter used to be skeptical of job applicants who had not worked for long stretches of time, assuming that other employers had passed them over.“My mind would jump to the negative stigma of ‘Wow, why could this person not get a job for this long?’” said Mr. Baxter, who is chief executive of Qwick, a temporary staffing company for the hospitality industry.Yet recently, he has hired at least half a dozen people who had been out of work for several months or longer. The pandemic, he said, “made me open my eyes.”Mr. Baxter’s change of heart reflects an apparent willingness among employers in the pandemic era to hire applicants who have been jobless for long periods. That’s a break from the last recession, when long-term unemployment became self-perpetuating for millions of Americans. People who had gone without a job for months or years found it very difficult to find a new one, in part because employers avoided them.The importance of what are often referred to as “résumé gaps” is fading, experts say, because of labor shortages and more bosses seeming to realize that long absences from the job market shouldn’t taint candidates. This is good news for the 2.2 million people who have been out of work for more than six months, and are considered long-term unemployed, according to the Labor Department, double the number before the pandemic.But that change may not last if more people decide to return to the job market or if the economy cools because of another wave of coronavirus cases, experts say.Mr. Baxter, whose company is based in Phoenix, said he has learned from his own experience. Forced to lay off roughly 70 percent of his 54 employees when the pandemic hit, he realized he was responsible for creating the very employment gaps he had once used to screen out job applicants.“I knew I was creating employment gaps,” he said. “Maybe other people would have employment gaps for very justifiable reasons. It doesn’t mean that they are not a good employee.”Even in normal times, the long-term unemployed face steep odds. The longer applicants are out of work, the more they may become discouraged and the less time they may spend searching for jobs. Their skills may deteriorate or their professional networks may erode.Some employers regard applicants with long periods of unemployment unfavorably, research shows — even if many are reluctant to admit it.“Employers don’t often articulate why but the idea, they believe, is that people who are out of work are damaged in some way, which is why they are out of work” said Peter Cappelli, the director of the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.Some economists believe the pandemic’s unique effects on the economy may have changed things. Notably, the pandemic destroyed millions of jobs seemingly all at once, especially in the travel, leisure and hospitality industries. Many people could not, or chose not to, work because of health concerns or family responsibilities.“For people who were just laid off because of Covid, will there be a stigma? I don’t really think so,” Mr. Cappelli said. Although monthly job-finding rates plummeted for both the short- and long-term unemployed during the early part of the pandemic, the rate for the long-term jobless has since rebounded to roughly the same level as before the pandemic, according to government data. While that does not imply the employment-gap stigma has disappeared, it suggests it is no worse than it has been.That was what Rachel Love, 35, found when she applied for a job at Qwick.After Ms. Love was furloughed, and then laid off from her sales job at a hotel in Dallas last year, she kept hoping that her former company would hire her back. She had been unemployed for about a year when she came to terms with the idea of getting a new job and became aware of a business development position at Qwick.Interviewers did not press her about why she had been out of work for so long. “I hope now, just with everything going on, I think people can look at the résumé and look at the time frame and maybe just infer,” said Ms. Love, who began working remotely for Qwick in June.The tight labor market is almost certainly a factor. In October, there were 11 million job openings for 7.4 million unemployed workers.“The fact of the matter is, there are far more jobs in the U.S. than there are people to fill them right now,” said Jeramy Kaiman, who leads professional recruitment for the western United States at the Adecco Group, a staffing agency, working primarily with accounting, finance and legal businesses. As a result, he added, employers have had to become more willing to consider applicants who had been out of work for a while.Even when the worker shortage eases, labor experts express optimism that employers will care less about employment gaps than before, partly because the pandemic has made hiring managers more sympathetic.Zoë Harte, the chief people officer at Upwork, a company that matches freelancers with jobs, said there had been a “societal shift” in how companies understand employment gaps.“It’s become more and more evident that opportunity isn’t equally distributed, and so it’s important for us as people who are creating jobs and interviewing people to really look at ‘What can this person contribute?’ as opposed to ‘What does this piece of paper say they have done in the past?’” she said.That aligns with Burton Amos’s experience. After he was laid off from his job as a program support specialist with a federal contractor at the start of the pandemic, Mr. Amos, 60, started an online wireless accessories business and began studying for a career in information technology but was unable to land other work.On his résumé and LinkedIn profile, he was open about his lack of full-time employment, an approach that seemed to appeal to interviewers.“Every job did ask about ‘What am I doing right now?’” he said. “They didn’t specifically say anything specific about the pandemic.” He recently received multiple job offers and has accepted a position as a public aid eligibility assistant with the State of Illinois.Many companies have also redoubled their efforts on diversity and are more willing to employ people with a range of backgrounds and experiences, including applicants with long employment gaps.Scott Bonneau, vice president of global talent attraction at the hiring site Indeed, said employment gaps are “not a part of our consideration.” His company instead tries to evaluate a candidate’s skills and capabilities. That practice began before the pandemic, as part of the company’s diversity and inclusion efforts, and it is a shift that he said he expected to see at other businesses.“I think there is the beginnings of a movement to stop focusing on employment gaps entirely at least in certain parts of the employment world,” said Mr. Bonneau, whose responsibilities include hiring people for jobs at Indeed.But other labor experts worry that the employment-gap stigma will return once the economy stabilizes.Employers may not be as forgiving of gaps on résumés that stretch into next year now that jobs, and vaccines, are more available, said Jesse Rothstein, a professor of public policy and economics at the University of California, Berkeley. The stigma may be more evident for lower-wage workers in industries where current job openings are especially high.“I would expect that to whatever extent that it exists, it will come back,” Mr. Rothstein said.History also suggests that the empathy that hiring managers may feel now will not last, said Maria Heidkamp, the director of program development at the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.In a study released in 2013 by the Heldrich Center, a quarter of American workers said they were directly affected through a job loss and nearly 80 percent said they knew at least someone who had lost a job in the previous four years. Those levels would seem to make hiring managers more understanding of those who had lost their jobs because the experience was so common, Ms. Heidkamp said. “But that’s not what we saw,” she said.“The equation may play out differently” now, she added. “That said, I’m still worried.”Ben Casselman More

  • in

    November 2021 Jobs Report Is Expected to Show Another Healthy Gain

    The trajectory of the economy as the holidays approach and a tumultuous year nears its conclusion will come into focus Friday morning when the government releases data on hiring and unemployment in November.Economists polled by Bloomberg are looking for a gain of 550,000 jobs, a robust number that suggests economic momentum. In October, employers added 531,000 jobs, and initial claims for unemployment benefits recently touched a 52-year low.The unemployment rate is expected to dip one-tenth of a percentage point, to 4.5 percent.Employment has been helped by the easing of the Delta variant of the coronavirus in many places and increased hiring at bars and restaurants as well as stores, offices and factories. The emergence of the Omicron variant threatens some of those gains, but it is too soon to gauge the risk to the economy.“We should continue to see strong jobs growth because demand for labor is red hot, but there is a lid on potential acceleration as the pandemic is still going on,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at the career site Glassdoor.He expects the report to show formidable hiring in retailing, transportation and warehousing with companies staffing up in anticipation of holiday demand.Despite the tight labor market and the healthy recent hiring number, the economy remains roughly four million jobs short of prepandemic levels. About one-third of those positions are in the leisure and hospitality sector, which is vulnerable if the Omicron variant turns out to be as much of a threat as the Delta variant, constraining travel and gatherings.“That’s the risk, but it probably won’t show up before Christmas,” said Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West in San Francisco. “It could be an issue in the new year. We’re still dealing with the Covid pandemic, and the risks are there for the economy and hiring.”The economy’s path has been characterized by clashing signals throughout the fall.The “quits rate” — a measurement of workers leaving jobs as a share of overall employment — has been at or near record highs, evidence of confidence among workers that they can navigate the labor market and find something better. But the University of Michigan’s survey of consumer sentiment dropped to levels not seen since the sluggish recovery from the recession of 2007-9.The report noted “the growing belief among consumers that no effective policies have yet been developed to reduce the damage from surging inflation.” Shoppers are facing the steepest inflation in 31 years. In October, prices increased 6.2 percent from a year earlier.Nonetheless, markets have remained relatively calm. The major stock indexes are up by impressive levels this year. And bond yields, which tend to move higher in inflationary environments, remain near record lows, indicating that investors don’t see inflation as a longer-term threat to the economy or financial stability. More

  • in

    Record Number of American Workers Quit Jobs in September

    .dw-chart-subhed {
    line-height: 1;
    margin-bottom: 6px;
    font-family: nyt-franklin;
    color: #121212;
    font-size: 15px;
    font-weight: 700;
    }

    Number of People Who Left Their Jobs Voluntarily by Month
    Note: Seasonally adjusted. Voluntary quits exclude retirements.Source: Bureau of Labor StatisticsBy The New York TimesEmployers are still struggling to fill millions of open jobs — and to hold on to the workers they already have.More than 4.4 million workers quit their jobs voluntarily in September, the Labor Department said Friday. That was up from 4.3 million in August and was the most in the two decades the government has been keeping track. Nearly a million quit their jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry alone, reflecting the steep competition for workers there as businesses recover from last year’s pandemic-induced shutdowns.There were 10.4 million job openings in the United States at the end of September. That is down a bit from the record 11.1 million posted in July, before the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus led to a slump in sales in some businesses. But demand for labor remains extraordinarily high by historical standards — before the pandemic, the record for job openings in a month was 7.6 million in November 2018. The Labor Department revised its estimate of job openings in August to 10.6 million.There were roughly 75 unemployed workers for every 100 job openings in September, the lowest ratio on record. Separate data released last week by the Labor Department showed that job growth rebounded in October but that the labor force barely grew.“You’re essentially seeing demand continuing to increase without an offsetting increase in talent,” said Ryan Sutton, a district director for Robert Half International, a staffing firm. “Until some new talent comes in, until we get employees who are on the sidelines back into the market, it’s very likely this is going to continue.”A hiring sign at a store in Manhattan. There were 10.4 million job openings in the United States at the end of September.Jeenah Moon for The New York TimesEconomists cite a number of reasons for the slow return. The pandemic is still disrupting child care, making it hard for some parents to work; other workers are worried about contracting the virus or spreading it to high-risk family members. Many Americans have also built up their savings during the pandemic, allowing them to be choosier about jobs..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-1kpebx{margin:0 auto;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1kpebx{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1gtxqqv{margin-bottom:0;}.css-1g3vlj0{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1g3vlj0{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-1g3vlj0 strong{font-weight:600;}.css-1g3vlj0 em{font-style:italic;}.css-1g3vlj0{margin-bottom:0;margin-top:0.25rem;}.css-19zsuqr{display:block;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}Those factors are likely to ease as the pandemic ebbs and savings dwindle. But other shifts could prove more lasting. In a research note published Friday, economists at Goldman Sachs observed that roughly two-thirds of the people who had left the labor force during the pandemic were over 55; many of them have retired and are unlikely to go back to work.The labor crunch is giving workers the upper hand in negotiations. Wages have risen sharply in recent months, particularly in service jobs, although in other industries pay is lagging behind the pace of inflation.The recent rise in the number of workers quitting suggests that many are taking advantage of their leverage to accept better-paying jobs, or to look for them. At the same time, understaffing in many businesses may be putting stress on remaining workers, leading even more people to leave their jobs. Industries that require most employees to work in person, such as manufacturing, retail and health care — as well as leisure and hospitality — report the biggest increases in the rate of workers leaving their jobs.“We are seeing big pickups in quits in the industries that are having the hardest time hiring right now,” said Nick Bunker, director of economic research for the job site Indeed.Kaylie Sweeting worked as a bartender in Millburn, N.J., through most of the pandemic, despite concerns about interacting with unmasked customers and frustration about low wages. But when the restaurant pressured a colleague to come to work sick this summer, Ms. Sweeting quit.“The job was absolutely no longer worth it,” she said. “I was hurt that a company that I gave my time to did not seem to prioritize me or my safety.”So Ms. Sweeting, 23, and her partner, a cook, decided to take the money they had saved to buy a house and open their own vegan restaurant instead. They recently signed a lease and are beginning renovations, with plans to open early next year. They are trying to apply the lessons they have learned as employees, promising good wages, paid time off and other basic benefits that restaurant jobs have often failed to provide.“I genuinely love the industry,” Ms. Sweeting said. “I just don’t love the way it’s managed. I feel like the only way to change it is to implement the change yourself.” More