Businesses nearly everywhere in America say they’re desperate for workers, and the latest statistical evidence is the Labor Department’s Jolts report Tuesday of a record 9.3 million job openings in April. Get the message, Congress?

The Jolts survey has never shown more openings since Labor began keeping track in 2000. Job openings increased 998,000 in April, including 391,000 in leisure and hospitality, 108,000 in trade and transportation and 102,000 in manufacturing as more states lifted Covid-19 restrictions. Yet new hires increased by a mere 69,000. Employers filled about one in 15 new positions.

The mismatch between labor supply and demand was especially acute in construction, where hires declined by 107,000 even as job openings increased by 23,000. Manufacturing job openings increased by 102,000 while hires fell 38,000. Worker shortages are contributing to supply-chain bottlenecks and higher prices for businesses and consumers.

A Chamber of Commerce survey last week found that 90.5% of companies said a lack of available workers was slowing the economy in their area, which was twice as many as cited pandemic issues. The American Hotel & Lodging Association reported that 96% of its respondents had open positions, but most pay less than sitting on the couch collecting enhanced subsidies for not working.

The Biden administration chalks up the slow jobs rebound to lack of child care or fear of COVID. But COVID has been subsiding fast due to vaccines. Far more schools were open in April than in December, so more parents should also be able to return to work.

Yet hires in April were lower in many industries including retail, manufacturing and construction than they were in December when the $300 federal jobless bonus wasn’t available. Employers have lowered hiring standards and offered signing bonuses. Some are even paying applicants merely to show up for interviews.

Most teenagers don’t qualify for unemployment benefits due to short or nonexistent work histories, but they are profiting from the tight labor market that has employers bidding up wages for low-skilled jobs. Teen unemployment is the lowest since 1953. About 40% of the newly employed workers in April and May were ages 16 to 19.

The labor shortage should ease in the fall once the Nancy Pelosi-Joe Biden $300 unemployment bonus expires. But even before the pandemic, businesses complained about a shortage of skilled manufacturing and tech workers, which is undercutting U.S. competitiveness.

The Senate on Tuesday passed a bipartisan $200 billion industrial policy bill to counter China. But where will U.S. businesses find workers to operate semiconductor plants and develop cutting-edge technologies? There won’t be enough in the U.S. Only 22% of high-school seniors were proficient in science on the 2019 Nation’s Report Card.

Foreign nationals on temporary visas make up half of engineering master’s degrees awarded by U.S. universities. Yet the bill does nothing to increase employment-based immigration or improve America’s failing public K-12 schools, which are the root of America’s skilled-worker shortage. Earth to Congress: Businesses that can’t find workers in the United States will export jobs overseas.

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(7) comments

BenToy

"One size fits all" never works across a large and wide distribution of folks. Doesn't work for socks either...

A min of $15/hour here in The SF BayArea would have folks lined up around the corner in rural areas in California and other states

Best practice would have be a bit harder and that would be to take 'the area's labor rates and use their low end to bootstrap' the folks

Tafhdyd

Sorry WSJ, if $300 is enough to cause a shortage of workers it only shows how cheap businesses are and how low the wages they pay must be. It is true that America is not producing enough STEM students to meet demand and therefore foreigners with temporary visas are filling the void. Schools in K-12 grades are part of the problem, unfortunately a big part of the problem is the Republican party, the party of NO. President Biden wants $100 billion to improve and update schools and improve internet and technology in the schools as part of his infrastructure plan. The GOP party of NO only wants roads and bridges and fossil fuel industries to be improved as part of the infrastructure plan, no to improving education.

Terence Y

Sorry Taffy, but its $300 per week in addition to their normal weekly unemployment payment. A lot of money to a lot of folks. Not everyone is as lucky as you to have had a high paying job where $300/week is peanuts. And not everyone can easily absorb higher prices due to the increasing inflation rate (higher every month since bumbling Biden stole the election - thanks Joe). BTW, maybe the FC-SM school district is attempting to continue the lack of STEM students since they’re thinking about canceling advanced math classes in their district. Guess there won't be much of a CA contingent of graduating STEM students.

Tafhdyd

Terence,

I am not sure if your got my point and it doesn't really matter, I won't bother to explain it. Sorry, I did forget to ask though, find any bamboo fibers or cheese dust?

Terence Y

Taffy, I think your point was yet another biased rant with no supporting facts. BTW, I don’t share your fixation with panda diets or how you process asparagus and cauliflower, but whatever floats your boat.

Dirk van Ulden

Taffy - do you realize how many bond issues that the voters have approved over the past 20 years? In Belmont alone well over $100 million. Every time the school districts cry for more money and what do we get? More athletic field, gyms, fancy admin facilities, and the purchase of computers that are obsolete within 3 years. Don't blame Trump or the Republicans for the mismanagement of generous funding and the greedy folks in Sacramento who have managed to hang on to the property tax money that we pay for schools. This is a structural problem that the Democrats and the teacher unions have concocted.

Terence Y

Wow, common sense from the Wall Street Journal in about 500 words which could have been reduced to, “If you pay people more money to stay at home, people will stay at home.” Just another self-inflicted wound brought to you by Biden and other powers-that-be imposing crippling lockdowns. You get what you vote for, or who you steal an election for.

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