By: Mark Glennon *
Sometimes the world turns upside down so quickly that the consequences go unnoticed.
This is the case with our current labor market – the best ever for job seekers. Jobs across the country surpass 10 million for the first time. America has more requests for help than it has unemployed people.
For now, at least, maybe the mantra of politicians and policymakers should be “Take the job.” And if you can’t find a good job nearby, move out.
The consequences of the historic labor market have simply not weighed in yet:
- For able-bodied people who depend on government welfare, there has never been a better opportunity to join the workforce.
- For anyone looking to change careers, now is the time.
- And for those hoping to relocate, the choice is theirs as the labor shortage is acute in most of the United States.
It should overturn a traditional article of faith. “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” is the gospel in most cases. Whatever their policy, almost everyone claims to at least factor in employment effects in just about every policy issue.
What is different now is that the jobs are there; unemployment is not the result of too few jobs. It doesn’t get better than that.
That’s true even in Illinois, in most industries, and it’s not just about low-skilled or entry-level jobs.
I checked with Mark Denzler, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, which has many members desperate for workers. “These are well-paying, middle-class jobs that earn on average over $ 80,000 in wages and benefits,” Denzler told me. “We need to get able-bodied people back into the workplace so that we can grow the economy and just be able to fill orders. Manufacturing alone has more than 800,000 open jobs nationwide, nearly double the previous record, Denzler says.
Farmers and pastoralists face a severe labor shortage. Hospitals are absolutely desperate for nurses, with a shortage raising fears of staffing for COVID hospitalizations that is likely more serious than the number of beds. In the construction industry, “virtually all professional trades are in high demand, including carpentry, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, roofing and painting.” By 2028, more than a million craft professionals will be needed in the residential construction sector alone.
The shortage extends to white collar workers. Layoffs and layoffs hit record highs in June and companies rolled out new employee benefits, ranging from higher wages on Wall Street to $ 1,300 fitness equipment for senior executives at a New York hotel, ”Business Insider reports. It’s ‘the big resignation’: white-collar workers make decisions as labor markets recover, ”a Reuters headline read.
A large survey by Gallagher & Co. shows how far employers are willing to go to attract workers in the era of the pandemic. Some 41% of employers who responded said they offered improved benefits. One such incentive: 19% say they offer pet insurance, a benefit expected to reach 27% of businesses over the next two years.
But politicians remain stuck in a world where job creation was paramount. Here in Illinois, for example, Chicago continues to “invest” in areas short of jobs. The city last week announced new mixed-use projects valued at $ 200 million for South Chicago, North Lawndale, Bronzeville and New City as part of its Invest South / West initiative to boost development in underprivileged communities. Billions of more dollars in federal spending are looming, laden with “fairness” demands targeting areas with high unemployment rates.
Wouldn’t it be wiser and nicer to encourage able-bodied and unemployed people to move to where the jobs are?
Move. Just move. If you think this is a heartless and conservative thing, forget about it. Voices from the left have recognized that, for the most disadvantaged, moving is a ticket to social advancement. Research proves this to be true. This research was detailed in a left-wing Vox article on families dependent on housing assistance. The economic consequences of moving to places with more opportunity could be enormous, according to a researcher cited in the article, who believes that the lifetime benefit for a newborn baby of moving from a low-opportunity neighborhood to a new one. High opportunity neighborhood is around $ 210,000 in additional income, or an 8.1 percent increase in lifetime income.
Seattle has put this research to good use by providing information and advice to encourage housing voucher recipients to move to better places. It worked. “This is the most significant effect I have ever seen in a social science intervention,” another researcher told Vox.
Many African Americans in Chicago have already understood this. They accounted for the bulk of those leaving the city for other states; 200,000 have left in the last decade. For them, it’s not just about jobs, but better schools and safer neighborhoods.
With a labor market as good as it gets, one would think that politicians would adjust their approach accordingly, but precisely the opposite is happening. Congress may be on the verge of adopting $ 3.5 trillion in “human infrastructure,” which is unquestionably designed primarily to replace dependence on work with dependence on government. This would “mark the biggest expansion of the social safety net in nearly 60 years,” according to the New York Times.
And the Biden administration is urging some states to extend additional unemployment benefits past the September expiration date for federal supplements. It’s crazy, being perhaps the clearest in the restaurant industry. Restaurants are so short of workers that some are forced to reduce their hours.
On this subject, I get an ear from a local entrepreneur, Jesse Boyle, who owns Station Restaurant and Bar and Vinny’s Pizza Bar in Chicago’s Ogilvie Transportation Hub.
“My business is newer, with a nice facility, nice people, and is in the middle of all the action in downtown Chicago,” he said to me, but “I couldn’t figure it out why people weren’t responding to our offers, especially with salaries that would earn them over $ 80,000 a year for a basic bartending position.
“I am convinced that the unemployment benefit premium has seriously hampered our ability to start. People are smart, ”Boyle said,“ and they do these calculations all the time. To this day, he says, “I still haven’t been able to hire enough people for the job I have to do. This is holding back growth, and at this point I just hope that the expiration of federal unemployment benefits on September 1 will attract more people to the workplace.
Boyle is hardly alone. Small businesses like his are paying the price for the labor shortage, as a recent Quartz column reported.
No one knows how long the unprecedented opportunity in the job market will last, but for now, a change from the traditional employment strategy is clearly in order. Forget about job creation for now. Tell people to take available jobs and, if necessary, move to where there are many.
* Mark Glennon is the founder of Wirepoints.