It’s been over a year since Ken Gaughran lost his job in radio promotions due to the pandemic, and he’s slowly losing hope of returning to this field.
So, in recent months, the 27-year-old Toms River resident has searched for employers who offer decent wages and benefits, while wondering how long he can wait before having to look for a job in a restaurant or restaurant. retail business.
“We’ve all had our careers, now what are we going to do?” said Gaughran. “They left. That was the hardest part.”
If Gaughran seems confused, he is not alone. The New Jersey labor market continued to emerge from its pandemic freeze in June, gaining thousands of jobs and convincing more unemployed people to retire.
But job growth in the state does not appear to be fast enough to relieve employers who have struggled to find enough staff to function.
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And a state report provided little clarity on what the post-pandemic economy will look like. Will workers re-enter the workforce in September when schools reopen and improved federal unemployment benefits expire? Or are they in the same boat as Guaghran, wondering if their career is over?
Unemployed workers could reassess what they are – and are not – willing to do, said Maria Heidkamp, director of program development at the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.
But “I think we have so many unknowns right now,” she said.
Gaughran, who grew up in Toms River, spent three years working at a radio station before being fired. And he’s relied on improved unemployment benefits – first $ 600 per week, now $ 300 per week – to help pay rent for an apartment he shares with two roommates.
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He had hoped to return to the radio industry, but found shortage of jobs there. So he spent his days researching online and trying to keep his spirits up by going for walks, spending time with friends, writing and taking photos.
Unemployment benefits gave him some leeway to hold out for a better job.
“A lot of people don’t want to go back to part-time jobs anymore,” Gaughran said. “They want to get the full time job now. And that’s my experience.”
More and more New Jerseyans are finding work. The state created 16,600 jobs in June, in addition to 17,200 new jobs in May, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported Thursday.
The state’s unemployment rate climbed to 7.3% from 7.2%, but the increase is in part due to more workers feeling confident enough to enter the workforce and seek employment. , according to the statistics.
Overall: New Jersey created more than 70,000 jobs in the first six months of the year, a historically fast pace.
But the Garden State still has a long way to go to return to pre-pandemic levels; it recovered about 59% of the jobs lost at the start of the pandemic last March and April, according to the state.
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The gap remains even though many employers say they have a lot of jobs ready and waiting.
Talula’s, a restaurant in Asbury Park, and Alternate Ending, a brewery in Aberdeen, have been slowed down by the shortage of workers, said Shanti Mignogna, who operates the restaurants with her husband, Steve.
Sometimes, said Shanti Mignogna, Talula staff will have to explain to customers that they have empty tables, but not enough people to serve them.
Restaurant owners have started offering signing bonuses of $ 1,000. Since then, fewer candidates do not show up for interviews. And they managed to close at least a few openings.
But Mignogna said she couldn’t rest.
“It’s interesting,” she said Thursday. “Right now I’m feeling great because we had a new person just started at Talula, we have a new guy starting at Alternate Ending, we had a great interview yesterday. So at this exact moment, we have a new guy starting at Alternate Ending, we had a great interview yesterday. I feel really good. “
“But the point is, that could change this afternoon because the turnover has been crazy,” she said. “So just when I start to feel a little bit at ease, our sous chef quits or our boss gets poached in another place.”
Workers seem to be on the move. Some 2.8% of workers quit their jobs in April and 2.5% of workers quit their jobs in May, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest level since 2000.
Employers don’t seem to be able to replace them quickly enough. There were 9.2 million job vacancies nationwide in May, 31% more than before the pandemic, when unemployment was at an all time high, according to the BLS.
“Last week we interviewed 20 people,” said Anna Santucci, owner of Express Employment Professionals, a recruitment agency in Howell. “Ten of those people were literally placed before leaving the office. No interview. Start, please.”
Yet it’s clear that employers and employees are not on the same page, leading analysts to wonder how much the economy and the job market have changed in the past 16 months.
Some workers have moved, started their own businesses, offered to work remotely, demanded better pay or benefits.
And in the case of Ken Gaughran, some saw their work disappear, leaving them with a grim feeling that it would never come back.
“There have been a lot of people who have said that the extra $ 300 or $ 600 is preventing people from working,” Gaughran said. “I’ll be totally honest, I never wanted to go back to work anymore. I lost my mind sitting at home.”
Michael L. Diamond is an economics reporter who has written about the New Jersey economy and the health care industry for over 20 years. He can be contacted at [email protected]