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    Luring Labor as a Beach Economy Booms

    REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. — Dogfish Head Craft Brewery is struggling to hire manufacturing workers for its beer factory and staff members for its restaurants in this coastal area, a shortage that has grown so acute that the company has cut dining room hours and is now offering vintage cases of its 120 Minute India Pale Ale as a signing bonus to new hires.The company is using its hefty social media presence “to get the bat signal out” and “entice beverage-loving adults” to join the team, Sam Calagione, the company’s founder, said on a steamy afternoon this month at Dogfish’s brewpub, which was already doing brisk business ahead of vacation season.Economic activity is expected to surge in Delaware and across the country as people who missed 2020 getaways head for vacations and the newly vaccinated spend savings amassed during months at home.Yet as they race to hire before an expected summertime economic boom, employers are voicing a complaint that is echoing all the way to the White House: They cannot find enough workers to fill their open positions and meet the rising customer demand.An April labor market report underscored those concerns. Economists expected companies to hire one million people, but data released on Friday showed that they had added only 266,000, even as vaccines became widely available and state and local economies began springing back to life. Many analysts thought labor shortages might explain the disappointment.Some blame expanded unemployment benefits, which are giving an extra $300 per week through September, for keeping workers at home and hiring at bay. Republican governors in Arkansas, Montana and South Carolina moved last week to end the additional benefits for unemployed workers in their states, citing companies’ labor struggles.President Biden said on Monday that there was no evidence that the benefit was chilling hiring. In remarks at the White House, he said his administration would make clear that any worker who turned down a suitable job offer, with rare exceptions for health concerns related to the coronavirus, would lose access to unemployment benefits. But school closings, child care constraints and incomplete vaccine coverage were playing a larger role in constraining hiring, the president said.He called on companies to step up by helping workers gain access to vaccines and increasing pay. “We also need to recognize that people will come back to work if they’re paid a decent wage,” Mr. Biden said.In tourist spots like Rehoboth Beach, companies face a shortage of seasonal immigrants, a holdover from a ban enacted last year that has since expired. But the behavior of the area’s businesses, from breweries to the boardwalk, suggests that much of the labor shortage also owes to the simple reality that it is not easy for many businesses simultaneously to go from a standstill to an economic sprint — especially when employers are not sure the new boom will last.Many managers are unwilling to raise wages and prices enough to keep up, as they worry that demand will ebb in a few months and leave them with permanently higher payroll costs. They are instead resorting to short-term fixes, like cutting hours, instituting sales quotas and offering signing bonuses to get people in the door.Some employers in the Rehoboth area, which The New York Times visited last year to take the temperature of the labor market, think workers will come flooding back in September, when the more generous unemployment benefits expire.At least 10 people in and around Rehoboth, managers and workers alike, cited expanded payments as a key driver of the labor shortage, though only two of them personally knew someone who was declining to work to claim the benefit.“Some of them are scared of the coronavirus,” said Alan Bergmann, a resident who said he knew six or seven people who were forgoing work. Mr. Bergmann, 37, was unable to successfully claim benefits because the state authorities said he had earned too little in either Delaware or Pennsylvania — where he was living in the months before the pandemic — to qualify.Whether it is unemployment insurance, lack of child care or fear of infection that is keeping people home, the perception that the job market is hot is at odds with overall labor numbers. Nationally, payroll employment was down 8.2 million compared with its prepandemic level, and unemployment remained elevated at 6.1 percent in April. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery is struggling to hire manufacturing workers for its beer factory and staff members for its restaurants.Alyssa Schukar for The New York TimesSam Calagione, center, the founder of Dogfish Head, said he did not want to think about the business the company would forgo if it cannot hire dozens of employees by the peak summer season.Alyssa Schukar for The New York TimesIn Delaware, Wawa gas stations sport huge periwinkle blue signs advertising $500 signing bonuses, plus free “shorti” hoagies each shift for new associates. A local country club is offering referral bonuses and opening up jobs to members’ children and grandchildren. A regional home builder has instituted a cap on the number of houses it can sell each month as everything — open lots, available materials, building crews — comes up short.“Demand was always going to pick up faster than supply in a lot of these pandemic-hit parts of the economy,” said Nick Bunker, an economist at Indeed. “There are readjustment costs.”National data hint that it is taking time for workers to reshuffle into new jobs. Openings have been swiftly increasing — a record share of small business owners report having an opening they are trying to fill — and quit rates have rebounded since last year, suggesting that workers have more options.Mr. Bergmann is among those who are benefiting. He said he had a felony on his record, and between that and the coronavirus, he was unable to find work last year. He struggled to survive with no income, cycling in and out of homelessness. Now he works a $16-an-hour job selling shirts on the boardwalk and has been making good money as a handyman for the past three months, enough to rent a room.Brittany Resendes, 18, a server at the Thompson Island Brewing Company in Rehoboth Beach, took unemployment insurance temporarily after being furloughed in March 2020. But she came back to work in June, even though it meant earning less than she would have with the extra $600 top-up available last year.“I was just ready to get back to work,” she said. “I missed it.”She has since been promoted to waitress and is now earning more than she would if she were still at home claiming the $300 expanded benefit. She plans to serve until she leaves for the University of Delaware in August, and then return during school breaks.Scott Kammerer oversees a local hospitality company that includes the brewery where Ms. Resendes works, along with restaurants like Matt’s Fish Camp, Bluecoast and Catch 54. He has been able to staff adequately by offering benefits and taking advantage of the fact that he retained some workers since his restaurants did not close fully or for very long during the pandemic.But he has also bolstered wages. The company’s starting non-tip pay rates have climbed to $12 from $9 two years ago. Mr. Kammerer has not been forced to raise prices to cover increasing costs, because business volume has picked up so much — up 40 percent this year compared with a typical winter — that profits remain solid.Other employers are struggling more. By the end of April, the Peninsula Golf and Country Club usually hired about 100 seasonal workers over the course of three job fairs. This year, after five fairs, it managed to hire only 40. Missing are the 20 or so students from abroad who would usually work on seasonal visas, but the club also cannot get people to come in for interviews.The clubhouse restaurant at the Peninsula Golf and Country Club in Millsboro, Del., sits empty because the company does not have the staff to open it for lunch.Alyssa Schukar for The New York TimesThe club might have to keep the snack shack at its wave pool closed this summer because of the labor shortage.Alyssa Schukar for The New York TimesBesides relaxing hiring rules and offering bonuses for employee referrals, the club is paying 10 percent to 20 percent more, depending on job title. But managers there do not think the wage increases sweeping their region are sustainable, nor do they think pay is what is keeping people from applying.“There’s no labor out there,” said Greg Tobias, the principal for Ocean Atlantic Companies, a business group that includes real estate development and the country club. “It’s not even a question of, are you paying enough money?”The sprawling clubhouse restaurant was empty on a sunny afternoon this month as golfers milled about. The company does not have the staff to open it for lunch. It might have to keep the snack shack at the club’s wave pool closed this summer if it cannot find more workers.Part of the problem, Mr. Tobias said, was that people had left the hospitality industry for the thriving local construction business. Ocean Atlantic’s related building company, Schell Brothers, had sales take off over the past year as people moved toward the beach — either because they were retiring or because the pandemic had prompted them to look for more space. Schell Brothers’s subcontractors could not double the sizes of its work forces overnight, and the company was concerned about running out of finished lots. Builders ran into material shortages.The company first raised prices by 15 percent to 25 percent to try to cool things down, but when the building backlog hit 18 months, it instituted caps to slow the rush of sales.“It’s almost like, anticapitalistic practices, but what would happen to our companies or employees if we ran out of finished lots would be worse,” said Preston Schell, the co-founder and chief executive of Ocean Atlantic Companies. While they could have pushed prices as high as demand would allow, they opted not to; it is hard to cut home prices down the road, Mr. Schell said, so it is better to undercharge during what he expects to be a short-term run-up.Building homes in Millsboro, Del. People have left the hospitality industry for the thriving local construction business, said Greg Tobias, the principal for Ocean Atlantic Companies.Alyssa Schukar for The New York TimesSales took off over the past year as people moved toward the beach, either because they were retiring or because the pandemic had prompted them to look for more space. Alyssa Schukar for The New York TimesSuch maneuvering could matter for economic policymakers from the White House to the Fed, as they keep a careful eye on inflation while vaccine-induced optimism and trillions in government spending fuel an economic rebound. If many businesses treat the summer bounce as likely to be short lived, it may keep price gains in check.At Dogfish Head, the solution has been to also temporarily limit what is on offer. The Rehoboth brewpub has cut its lunches, and its sister restaurant next door is closed on Mondays. Mr. Calagione said he did not want to think about the business they would forgo if they cannot hire the dozens of employees needed by the peak summer season.But as it offers cases of its cult-favorite beer and signing bonuses to draw new hires, the company seems less focused on another lever: lasting pay bumps. Steve Cannon, a server at Dogfish Head, can walk to what he regards as his retirement job. He said he was not thinking of switching employers, but several co-workers had left recently for better wages elsewhere.“There’s nobody,” said Mr. Cannon, 57. “So people are going to start throwing money at them.”When asked if it was raising pay, Dogfish Head said it offered competitive wages for the area. 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    As Economy Rebounds, Manufacturers Face New Hurdles

    U.S. factories are humming again. But the recovery’s speed has left many employers scrambling for workers or for parts.Matt Guse would hire a dozen machinists — if only he could find them.The owner of MRS Machining, a maker of precision metal parts in rural Augusta, Wis., Mr. Guse finds business is rebounding so quickly as the pandemic’s effect eases that his 47-worker shop is short-handed.“I’ve turned down a million dollars’ worth of work in the last two weeks,” he said. “Doing that, it’s hard to go to bed at night when you put your head to the pillow. I have open capacity, but I need more people.”After a sharp downturn when the pandemic hit last year, factories are humming again. But the recovery’s speed has left employers scrambling. Despite huge layoffs — manufacturing employment initially dropped by 1.4 million — some companies find themselves desperate for workers.In other cases, shortages of parts like semiconductors and supply chain disruptions have made orders hard to fill and created fresh uncertainty.“It was a lot easier to turn the lights out than to ramp up,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at the accounting firm Grant Thornton in Chicago. “Manufacturers weren’t prepared for a surge of demand in goods. They’ve been caught a bit flat-footed.”The manufacturing recovery signals a turning point, with the Biden administration putting a fresh focus on increasing factory jobs, especially in areas like semiconductors and electric vehicles. That growth will be crucial if the overall economy is to expand rapidly in the months ahead.The Commerce Department reported Monday that orders for durable goods — like cars and appliances — rose half a percentage point in March, prompting Barclays to lift its tracking estimate of economic growth for the first quarter to 1.4 percent, or 5.6 percent at an annualized rate.On Thursday, the government will release its initial reading on economic growth in the first three months of the year, and manufacturing is expected to be among the bright spots. The consensus of analysts polled by Bloomberg is that the report will show gross domestic product expanded by 1.7 percent, up from 1.3 percent.At one point, factory production was down substantially because of the pandemic, but it should return to pre-Covid-19 levels by the third quarter of this year, according to Chad Moutray, chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers.“We’re seeing gangbuster levels of orders,” he said. “But the sector has a lot of challenges, like a rise in raw material costs, supply chain disruptions, logistics bottlenecks and worker shortages.”At MRS Machining, Mr. Guse said, spot shortages of items like steel and metal plate are a constant issue. “Quotes for material goods from suppliers are usually good for three to six months,” he said. “Now it’s a matter of hours.”As at many factories, the work pays well, starting at $18 to $20 an hour and rising to around $30. But the most skilled workers, like machinists, remain hard to find, according to Mr. Guse.“We’re getting applicants because people are moving out of Minneapolis and Chicago and looking to live in a more rural environment,” he said.Despite the good news at MRS, rebuilding overall factory employment is a challenge, said Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a policy group representing manufacturers and the United Steelworkers.President Biden is fighting a long-term trend. Nearly 12.3 million Americans work in factories. Two decades ago, that figure stood at just over 17 million.“We feed the companies whose products go into infrastructure,” said Kathie Leonard, the chief executive of Auburn Manufacturing, which makes heat- and fire-resistant fabrics.Yoon Byun for The New York TimesFiberglass fabric before it is processed in a vertical oven, where it will be heated at 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit to caramelize so it won’t smoke when reaching high temperatures.Yoon Byun for The New York TimesAfter the last few economic downturns — the falloff in growth following the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s; the slump after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; and the Great Recession — manufacturing failed to recover the lost jobs.To be sure, the sector has made up a good amount of ground after losing nearly 1.4 million positions in the first months of the pandemic, but employment remains about 515,000 jobs short of where it was in February 2020.Some experts question why policymakers focus so much on production when most Americans work in service industries that have been gaining jobs over the years and offer better growth prospects. But manufacturing is one of the few paths to a middle-class life for the two-thirds of American adults who lack a college degree.The average hourly wage of manufacturing workers is $29.15, while workers in leisure and hospitality, another field that draws people with less education, earn $17.67 an hour.Mr. Paul hopes that Mr. Biden’s plan to revitalize American manufacturing as part of his larger infrastructure effort will bear fruit.“He’s pretty serious about some form of industrial policy,” Mr. Paul said, citing the administration’s call for action in making products like semiconductors and electric vehicles. “It may be possible for Biden to do what no president has since manufacturing began its job decline and reverse the losses.”The administration’s blueprint includes $50 billion in funding for investments in chip manufacturing and research as well as $174 billion in spending to advance electric vehicles.The $2 trillion plan, with its focus on rebuilding roads and bridges as well as the electric grid, could help companies like Auburn Manufacturing of Maine, said its chief executive, Kathie Leonard.“Customers are struggling to meet launch timelines and production targets,” said Christie Wong Barrett, chief executive of MacArthur Corporation, a maker of labels and decals outside Flint, Mich. Brittany Greeson for The New York TimesMacArthur makes labels and decals like those showing tire pressure or indicating vehicle identification numbers. Its business was hard hit a year ago when the pandemic forced auto plants to shut down.Brittany Greeson for The New York Times“We feed the companies whose products go into infrastructure,” said Ms. Leonard, describing the heat- and fire-resistant fabrics Auburn makes at two factories in central Maine, about a half-hour from Portland. “The infrastructure plan holds promise for companies like us.”“You have to work at being an optimist,” she said. “We’re not going to hire 25 people, but maybe five. We need to hire a technical director, fabricators, and we need staff to help with e-commerce.”The semiconductor shortages are a headache for Christie Wong Barrett, chief executive of MacArthur Corporation, a maker of labels and decals outside Flint, Mich. She said orders had been delayed by car companies — her major customers — that couldn’t find enough of the chips they needed to keep cars coming off the assembly lines.“Customers are struggling to meet launch timelines and production targets,” she said. “Orders are either reduced in volume or delayed. It trickles down to different suppliers, and we’re just getting a haircut across the board.”MacArthur’s business had already been damaged when auto plants closed a year ago amid the pandemic lockdowns, cutting off demand for labels and decals like those showing tire pressure or indicating vehicle identification numbers.Ms. Barrett was able to pivot and supply products for medical customers, averting all but a handful of layoffs for her work force of 50. She remains optimistic, despite the current logistical backups.“It’s a horrible disruption right now, but I’m anticipating a strong recovery,” she said. “We never made major cuts, and as automotive production starts to recover more, I expect to hire several more people in the coming months.” More

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    Signs of Economic Hope Are Growing, Some With Superlatives

    Soaring retail sales and a sharp drop in jobless claims are the latest reflection of a quickening recovery and suggest a year of remarkable growth.The American economic recovery is gathering steam, renewing confidence that a vibrant revival awaits as the pandemic recedes.After months of false starts, evidence is mounting that the economy has definitively turned a corner, with more growth on the horizon. Job gains last month were the strongest since August. There are signs that the snarled global supply chain may be untangling.And in dual reports on Thursday, the government reported more good news: Retail sales in March blew past expectations, rising nearly 10 percent, and jobless claims last week fell to their lowest level of the pandemic.Even as the country is still straining to contain the virus, as millions of people remain unemployed and as a large portion of the population remains unvaccinated, the data suggests that the long-heralded economic rebound is within reach.“I’m feeling quite optimistic,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics. “I think what we’re seeing is evidence of this booming economy that we’re going to be seeing over the coming months.”In the year since the coronavirus smothered the economy, economists have held out hope for a significant turnaround defined by plentiful job opportunities, higher wages and supercharged spending after months of pent-up demand. But the tantalizing promise at times appeared unlikely at best: After a period of growth over the summer, job gains largely stalled heading into the new year. New state unemployment claims spiked to over a million in one week in January. Retail sales, bolstered by stimulus payments, jumped in January only to slide the next month.Monthly Retail Sales

    Seasonally adjusted advance monthly sales for retail and food services.Source: Commerce DepartmentThe New York TimesYet recent weeks have delivered increasing reason for hope. With a fresh round of federal payments in their pockets and vaccines in their arms, many Americans have begun shopping and dining out with renewed alacrity, driving retail sales. A 9.8 percent increase last month was a strong comeback from the nearly 3 percent drop in February, when previous stimulus money had dissipated and a series of winter storms made travel difficult across much of the United States.The increase was broad-based, including big-ticket purchases like cars and discretionary spending on sporting goods, which economists interpreted as a sign of strong household income and growing optimism. Sales of clothing and accessories rose 18 percent, while restaurants and bars recorded a 13 percent increase — demonstrating how many areas of consumption are bouncing back.“I found it very encouraging that there are signs that people are waking up from hibernation, buying new clothes and going out to restaurants,” said Beth Ann Bovino, U.S. chief economist at S&P Global. “I think people are feeling optimistic that the United States will win the war on the virus. And they have good reason to be hopeful.”Many economists said the strong retail sales were likely to continue through the spring, even after the new stimulus payments are used up.The gradual return to normal activities as business restrictions ease has in turn prompted employers to recall workers — and this time, to hold on to them.The Labor Department reported on Thursday that the number of first-time claims for state unemployment benefits fell sharply last week, to about 613,000, the lowest level since the start of the pandemic. That was a decline of 153,000, the largest week-over-week decrease since the summer.In addition, 132,000 new claims were filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program that covers freelancers, part-timers and others who do not routinely qualify for state benefits. That was a decline of 20,000 from the previous week.“We’re gaining momentum here, which is just unquestionable,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at the accounting firm Grant Thornton.There are also broader signs of a comeback.After a devastating year, airlines are growing increasingly hopeful as travelers return. Over the past month, more than one million people were screened each day at federal airport checkpoints, according to the Transportation Security Administration, a signal that a sustained travel recovery is underway.As a result, American Airlines said this week that it expected to sell more than 90 percent as many tickets within the United States this summer as it did in the summer of 2019. Delta Air Lines said Thursday that it had recovered about 85 percent of its domestic leisure sales. If trends hold, the airline said, it could be profitable again by the summer.“A year after the onset of the pandemic, travelers are gaining confidence and beginning to reclaim their lives,” Ed Bastian, the company’s chief executive, said in announcing the airline’s first-quarter financial results. “Delta is accelerating into the recovery.”Moreover, the nation’s ports are handling record cargo volumes as consumers stock up. March was the busiest month on record for the Port of Oakland, while the Port of Los Angeles, the main point of entry for goods from Asia, said the first three months of the year were the busiest first quarter in its 114-year history.“As more Americans get vaccinated, businesses reopen and the economy strengthens, consumers continue to purchase goods at a dizzying pace,” Gene Seroka, the port’s executive director, said in a statement.For months, the port, like others around the world, has been overwhelmed by an influx of cargo, forcing container ships to wait days offshore to unload their goods. In many cases, the containers are unloaded and immediately sent back so they can be filled for another eastbound trip. While the backlog remains, Mr. Seroka said, it is expected to be eliminated in the coming months.The Port of Los Angeles, the main point of entry for goods from Asia, said the first three months of this year were the busiest first quarter in its 114-year history.Coley Brown for The New York TimesThe improving signs on so many fronts are being reflected in brightening forecasts for the months ahead. Morgan Stanley said Thursday that it expected the economy to grow 7.5 percent in 2021, after shrinking 3.5 percent in 2020. That would be the strongest growth rate for a calendar year since the 1950s.But if the economy appears to be on the upswing, the recovery is still fragile. Weekly applications for unemployment claims have remained stubbornly high for months, causing frustration even as businesses reopen and vaccination rates increase. They have also been a volatile economic indicator, temporarily dipping to their lowest level of the pandemic in mid-March before rising again in recent weeks.“You’re still not popping champagne corks,” Ms. Swonk said. “I will breathe again — and breathe easy again — once we get these numbers back down in the 200,000 range.”What’s more, concerns about workplace safety persist, especially for younger workers who have just become eligible for vaccinations. Many children are still attending schools remotely, complicating the full-time work prospects for their caregivers.Jobless claims for the next few months could remain significantly elevated as the labor market adjusts to a new normal.“The job market conditions for job seekers have really improved extremely quickly between January and now,” said Julia Pollak, a labor economist at the job site ZipRecruiter. “But there are still huge barriers to returning to work.”The rebound in March sales also shows how consumer spending — and the economic rebound as a whole — remains highly dependent on government support.President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law last month, provides $1,400-a-person payments to most households. The payments began arriving around March 17, and by the end of the month, economists saw signs that spending was ramping up again, such as increased hotel occupancy and travel through airports.Economists at Morgan Stanley had predicted that core retail sales would jump 6.5 percent in March, driven by the payments. The investment bank said only 30 percent of consumers tended to spend their payments within 10 days, suggesting that many have money on hand that could strengthen April sales as well.Other factors are contributing to the brightening recovery prospects. Mr. Biden moved up the deadline for states to make all adults eligible for vaccination to April 19, and every state has complied, laying the groundwork for more people to rejoin the work force. Students who have been learning remotely are increasingly returning to the classroom, a shift that will especially benefit women, who have been disproportionately sidelined during the pandemic by caregiving duties.Echoing the general perception that post-pandemic life is beckoning, American consumers are feeling increasingly upbeat. One measure of sentiment, tabulated by the Conference Board, showed that consumer confidence in March recorded its biggest one-month gain in nearly a decade, fueled by increased income and stronger business and employment expectations.“This was the deepest, swiftest recession ever,” said Ms. Pollak, the ZipRecruiter economist. “But it’s also turning into the fastest recovery.”Ben Casselman contributed reporting. More

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    Uncounted in the Unemployment Rate, but They Want to Work

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesRisk Near YouVaccine RolloutGuidelines After VaccinationAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyUncounted in the Unemployment Rate, but They Want to WorkMillions have left the labor force in the last year, many home with children or health concerns. The statistics may not reflect their aspirations.Robert Hesse says he plans to look for a job in earnest once he is vaccinated and hopes to go back to work this year.Credit…Jenna Schoenefeld for The New York TimesMarch 15, 2021Updated 6:17 a.m. ETRobert Hesse was expecting an imminent promotion to manager of Sub Zero Ice Cream, a nitrogen ice cream shop in Ventura, Calif., when it shut down in March because of the pandemic.“I like to work,” said Mr. Hesse, a college graduate who turns 26 on Tuesday. “Otherwise I feel like I’m useless.” But he has been reluctant to seek a new job because he lives with his parents, who are not yet vaccinated, and is afraid of bringing the virus home to them.“It’s just health concerns — I don’t really want to be around the general public yet,” he said.Mr. Hesse represents what economists say is one of the most striking features of the pandemic-driven economic downturn: the tide of workers who, as the government counts things, have left the labor force.In the year since the pandemic upended the economy, more than four million people have quit the labor force, leaving a gaping hole in the job market that cuts across age and circumstances. An exceptionally high number have been sidelined because of child care and other family responsibilities or health concerns. Others gave up looking for work because they were discouraged by the lack of opportunities. And some older workers have called it quits earlier than they had planned.These labor-force dropouts are not counted in the most commonly cited unemployment rate, which stood at 6.2 percent in February, making the group something of a hidden casualty of the pandemic.Now, as the labor market begins to emerge from the pandemic’s vise, whether those who have left the labor force return to work — and if so, how quickly — is one of the big questions about the shape of the recovery.“There are a lot of dimensions related to the pandemic that I think are driving this phenomenon,” said Eliza Forsythe, a labor economist at the University of Illinois. “We don’t really know what the long-term consequences are going to be because it is different from the past.”There is some reason for optimism. Economists expect that many who have left the labor force in the last year will return to work once health concerns and child care issues are alleviated. And they are optimistic that as the labor market heats up, it will draw in workers who grew disenchanted with the job search.Mr. Hesse, for instance, said he planned to look for a new job in earnest once he is vaccinated and hoped to go back to work this year.Moreover, after the last recession, many economists said those who left the labor force were unlikely to come back, whether because of disabilities, the opioid crisis, a loss of skills or other reasons. Yet labor force participation, adjusted for demographic shifts, eventually returned to its previous level.But the speed with which the pandemic has driven workers from the labor force has had devastating effects that could leave lasting damage.The labor force participation rate among those 16 or older has dropped to about 61 percent from 63 percent in February 2020. Among prime age workers — those 25 to 54 — it has declined to 81 percent from 83 percent.Women in their prime working years have quit the labor force at nearly twice the rate of men, according to research by Wells Fargo, partly because more women work in industries like leisure and hospitality that are less suited to social distancing and partly because women are more likely to bear the burden of child care. The share of Black women who have left the labor force is more than twice the share of white men.Then there are the many people who may be seeking a job but who are unavailable to take one because of health concerns, illness or caretaking obligations, putting them in what economists say is something of a gray area — between being unemployed and not in the labor force — that has become more common during the pandemic.A single mother, Frankie Wiley, 29, worked as a housekeeper at a resort in Bloomington, Minn., until she was laid off last March. She would like a paid job, but she has to stay home with her 11-year-old daughter, who is attending school remotely.The Coronavirus Outbreak More

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    Women in Economics Face Hostility When Presenting Research

    AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyWomen in Economics Face Hostility When Presenting ResearchStudies have found that the field is plagued by a singular problem of gender bias. The latest evidence comes from the types of questions posed at seminars.The American Economic Association conference in San Diego early last year. New research details how men and women are treated differently when they make economic presentations.Credit…Sandy Huffaker for The New York TimesFeb. 23, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ETA few years ago, the economists Alicia Sasser Modestino and Justin Wolfers sat at the back of a professional conference and watched Rebecca Diamond, a rising star in their field, present her latest research on inequality. Or at least she was meant to present it — moments after she began her talk, the audience began peppering her with questions.“She must have gotten 15 questions in the first five minutes, including, ‘Are you going to show us the data?’” Dr. Modestino recalled. It was an odd, even demeaning question — the session was in the data-heavy field of applied microeconomics. Of course she was going to show her data.Later that morning, Dr. Modestino and Dr. Wolfers watched as another prominent economist, Arindrajit Dube, presented a paper on the minimum wage. But while that was one of the most hotly debated topics in the field, the audience allowed Dr. Dube to lay out his findings for several minutes with few interruptions.Over a drink later, Dr. Modestino and Dr. Wolfers wondered: Had the audiences treated the two presenters differently because of their genders?They couldn’t be sure. Maybe the audience treated Dr. Dube differently because he was more senior. Maybe they had simply found his paper more convincing, or less interesting. Maybe the observations of Dr. Modestino and Dr. Wolfers were a result of their own biases — Dr. Dube, in an email, recalled getting lots of questions, some of them quite skeptical. (He added that he didn’t know how his reception compared with Dr. Diamond’s, and he said didn’t challenge Dr. Modestino’s recollection over all.)So Dr. Modestino and Dr. Wolfers, who has written on economics in The New York Times, did what economists often do: They gathered data. Along with two other economists, they recruited dozens of graduate students across the country to attend hundreds of economics presentations to record what happened. Their findings, according to a working paper that is expected to be published next week by the National Bureau of Economic Research: Women received 12 percent more questions than men, and they were more likely to get questions that were patronizing or hostile.“It measures something that we thought couldn’t be measured,” Dr. Modestino said. “It links it to a potential reason that women are underrepresented in the profession.”The paper is the latest addition to a mounting body of evidence of gender discrimination in economics. Other researchers in recent years have found that women are less likely than men to be hired and promoted, and face greater barriers to getting their work published in economic journals. Those problems aren’t unique to economics, but there is evidence that the field has a particular problem: Gender and racial gaps in economics are wider, and have narrowed less over time, than in many other fields.In response to those concerns, the American Economic Association commissioned a survey of more than 9,000 current and former members that asked about their experiences in the field. The results, released in 2019, revealed a disturbing number of cases of harassment and outright sexual assault. And it found that subtler forms of bias were rampant: Only one woman in five reported being “satisfied with the overall climate” in the field. Nearly one in three said they believed they had been discriminated against. And nearly half of women said they had avoided speaking at a conference or seminar because they feared harassment or disrespectful treatment.“Half of women are saying they don’t even want to present in a seminar,” Dr. Modestino said. “We’re losing a lot of ideas that way.”The harsh reception faced by women is particularly striking because they are also less likely to be invited to present their research in the first place. Women accounted for fewer than a quarter of the economic talks given over recent years, according to another paper. Racial minorities were even more underrepresented: Barely 1 percent of the speakers were Black or Hispanic.“It’s just embarrassingly bad,” said Jennifer Doleac, an economist at Texas A&M University who is one of the study’s authors. Only about 30 talks have been delivered by Black or Latina women since the authors began tracking the data, she noted. “These scholars are just not being invited, ever.”The lack of representation is so significant that Dr. Modestino and her colleagues could not study whether Black and Latino economists were treated differently in seminars than their white counterparts — there were too few examples in their data to analyze.The lack of opportunities has potentially significant career consequences. Research presentations, known as seminars, are an important way that academics, particularly those early in their careers, disseminate their research, build their reputations and get feedback on their work.Seminars play a particular role in economics. In other fields, they tend to be collegial affairs, with mostly respectful questions and few interruptions. In economics, however, they often resemble gladiatorial battles, with audience members vying to poke holes in the presenter’s argument. Seemingly every economist, regardless of gender, has at least one horror story of losing control of a presentation. Many say they have been brought to tears.Most economists acknowledge that there are bad actors who are more interested in scoring debating points than raising legitimate questions. But many defend the field’s culture of aggressiveness, saying it is helpful to get feedback — even critical feedback — from colleagues.“I expect a room full of economists to speak up and have their own opinions and ideas,” said Ioana Marinescu, a University of Pennsylvania economist. “To me, if they’re not asking questions, they might be a little bit zoned out.”Dr. Marinescu recalled a talk she gave at a prestigious conference several years ago, where she, too, faced frequent interruptions. It was terrifying, she said — but also stimulating.“The questions were incessant, but they were awesome questions from the top people in the profession,” she said. “From my perspective, it was one of the best experiences I ever had.”Still, Dr. Marinescu said, reforms are needed. And in recent years, some economists have begun to question the field’s culture of aggressiveness, arguing that it discourages people from entering the field. Several universities have instituted rules meant to cut down on bad behavior, such as banning questions for the first 10 or 15 minutes of a talk so that speakers can get through at least the beginning of their presentations uninterrupted.But Judith Chevalier, a Yale economist who chairs the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession, said rules intended to improve seminars wouldn’t address the underlying problems that Dr. Modestino’s research revealed.“Seminars are a public setting — seminars are when they are on their good behavior,” Dr. Chevalier said. “We can’t declare victory even if we fix seminars. We need to re-examine everything. Are we biased when we hire? Are we biased when we mentor? Are we biased in seminars? Are we biased when we promote?”AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Dip in Unemployment Claims Offers Hope as New Virus Cases Ease

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesSee Your Local RiskNew Variants TrackerVaccine RolloutAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyDip in Unemployment Claims Offers Hope as New Virus Cases EaseWith restrictions lifting, workers in industries hard hit by the pandemic are getting a respite from layoffs, and job postings are increasing.A closed restaurant at Grand Central Market in Los Angeles. Workers in leisure and hospitality industries have been hit especially hard by job losses during the pandemic.Credit…Philip Cheung for The New York TimesFeb. 11, 2021Updated 5:59 p.m. ETAfter a pandemic-induced spike in layoffs amid new restrictions in many states, unemployment claims are falling, helped by a drop in new coronavirus cases.Initial claims for unemployment benefits declined last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, and were significantly below the level in most of December and early January.New coronavirus cases have fallen by a third from the level of two weeks ago, prompting states like California and New York to relax curbs on indoor dining and other activities. That, in turn, has provided something of a respite for workers in the hardest-hit industries.Last week brought 813,000 new claims for state benefits, compared with 850,000 the previous week. Adjusted for seasonal variations, last week’s figure was 793,000, a decrease of 19,000.There were 335,000 new claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federally funded program for part-time workers, the self-employed and others ordinarily ineligible for jobless benefits. That total, which was not seasonally adjusted, was down from 369,000 the week before.While claims remain extraordinarily high by historical standards, the improvement has raised hopes that layoffs will continue to slow as vaccinations spread and employers shift from shedding workers to adding them.“We’re stuck at this very high level of claims, but activity is picking up,” said Julia Pollak, a labor economist with ZipRecruiter, an online employment marketplace. Indeed, job postings at ZipRecruiter stand at 11.3 million, close to the 11.4 million level before the pandemic hit.The improving pandemic situation has eased the strain on restaurants and bars, Ms. Pollak added. But with a deficit of almost 10 million jobs since the pandemic struck, and employers still cautious about hiring, the economy faces broad challenges.Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, told the Economic Club of New York on Wednesday that policymakers should stay focused on restoring full employment, “given the number of people who have lost their jobs and the likelihood that some will struggle to find work in the postpandemic economy.”He noted that employment had dropped just 4 percent for workers earning high wages but “a staggering 17 percent” for the bottom quartile of earners.The Coronavirus Outbreak More

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    Toll Worker Job Losses Highlight Long-Term Fallout of Pandemic

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesSee Your Local RiskVaccine InformationWuhan, One Year LaterAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyToll Worker Job Losses Highlight Long-Term Fallout of PandemicThe Pennsylvania Turnpike laid off workers to switch to labor-saving technology, in what might be a broader trend.John Mahalis lost his job when the Pennsylvania Turnpike shifted to machine toll collection during the pandemic. Policymakers worry that many workers may face a similar technology-driven fate.Credit…Kriston Jae Bethel for The New York TimesFeb. 4, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ETJohn Mahalis of Philadelphia was two and a half months from his pension’s vesting when he learned that he would be permanently laid off from his job as a toll collector on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The news was a gut punch; Mr. Mahalis said it would leave him less able to financially weather retirement.“It came out of the blue,” said Mr. Mahalis, 65. He had worked for the turnpike for five years after 20 years of unemployment due to an injury he sustained as a dockworker. He had loved the work, especially interacting with customers, and earned good money: By taking as much overtime as he could get, he made about $53,000 a year, along with benefits.“It was the best thing I ever did,” he said. “I felt like a man again.”The job evaporated overnight when the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, decided in June to move up its plan to lay off nearly 500 toll workers and replace them with electronic tolling. Dismissals planned for early 2022 instead went into effect immediately, a move that the commission said would help the system financially accommodate weaker traffic during the economic downturn.The United States may be witnessing the bleeding edge of a labor force shuffle that often occurs during recessions: Employers who have been forced to cut workers turn to existing or new technology to carry on with less labor. But this time the shift could be magnified by a wave of forced layoffs at the start of the pandemic and by the fact that demand in some cases came back before employees safely could.That has created a big incentive for employers to figure out how to produce more with fewer workers, powered by new technologies that allow for more automation.Layoffs have shifted from temporary to permanent as the pandemic has dragged on, and many workers have moved to the sidelines of the labor market as service jobs in particular — everything from conference centers and hotels to tollbooths — are downsized or streamlined. It is unclear how quickly workers facing firings will find new jobs that are good substitutes in terms of skills and salaries.“We’re learning that technology can replace people even more than we thought, and some of that is happening,” Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, said at a news conference last week. “We’re still going to need to keep people in mind whose lives have been disrupted because they’ve lost the work that they did.”Technology adoption can lead to faster productivity growth — or at least a one-time bounce — that might improve the economy’s potential. But it can be difficult for laid-off workers to move into new jobs that pay as well and fit their qualifications.“This story isn’t new,” said Nela Richardson, the chief economist at ADP, the payroll-processing company. “There was always a question about what to do about those left behind by technology and globalization that was never answered.”The Pennsylvania Turnpike offers a stark example. Its workers knew that machines would eventually make them obsolete, but they thought they would have time to prepare.Faye Townsend, 50, was on a trial period at the turnpike’s administrative building, working a job that she hoped would lead to an even more secure one before the switch to cashless tolls. When the coronavirus crisis began, she was sent back to the road system but not allowed into the tollbooth. Instead, she and her colleagues spent worried days clocking in, sanitizing the building and waiting to learn whether and when they could return to collecting.The Coronavirus Outbreak More

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    Why Are There So Few Black Economists at the Fed?

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Jobs CrisisCurrent Unemployment RateWhen the Checks Run OutThe Economy in 9 ChartsThe First 6 MonthsJ. Monroe Gamble IV pushed for changes to the hiring process at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.Credit…Christopher Smith for The New York TimesSkip to contentSkip to site indexWhy Are There So Few Black Economists at the Fed?Monroe Gamble became the San Francisco Fed’s first Black research assistant in 2018. His path shows why fixing a striking diversity shortfall will take commitment.J. Monroe Gamble IV pushed for changes to the hiring process at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.Credit…Christopher Smith for The New York TimesSupported byContinue reading the main storyFeb. 2, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ETWASHINGTON — J. Monroe Gamble IV was the first Black research assistant to work at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. He started in 2018.That one data point speaks to a broader reality: Even as America’s central bank dedicates research and attention to racial economic outcomes and publicly champions inclusion, it has had a poor record of building a work force that looks like the population it is meant to serve.Many parts of the Fed system, which includes the Federal Reserve Board in Washington and 12 regional banks, began to concentrate more intently on diversifying their heavily white economics staffs only within the last decade, prompted in part by the 2010 Dodd Frank Act, which pushed the board to hire more broadly. When it comes to employing Black economists in particular, the central bank still falls short.Officials have often blamed the pipeline — Ph.D. economists are heavily white and Asian — but a New York Times analysis suggests the issue goes even beyond that. Black people are less represented within the Fed than in the field as a whole. Only two of the 417 economists, or 0.5 percent, on staff at the Fed’s board in Washington were Black, as of data the Fed provided last month. Black people make up 13 percent of America’s population and 3 to 4 percent of the U.S. citizens and permanent residents who graduate as Ph.D. economists each year.Practices that favor job candidates with similar life experiences and those from elite economics programs, which are often heavily white, have sometimes prevented diverse hiring, current and former employees said. A brash culture can make some parts of the central bank unwelcoming, which can lower retention. More