Joe Manchin hit the nail on the head when he said, “We have 11 million jobs that we haven’t filled, 8 million people still unemployed. Something’s not matching up here.”
The senator’s instincts are true. During the epidemic, something fundamentally shifted in the labor market. There appear to be fewer people willing to work.
Since 1974, the National Federation of Independent Company has surveyed small business owners on a monthly basis. August's results were perplexing. A 48-year high — 50% — of employers reported unfilled job positions. 91 percent of those hiring or attempting to hire reported having little or no "qualified" applicants. A record-breaking 29% of employers reported having no — zero — qualified applicants. All of this despite a record high of 41% reporting an increase in remuneration. As a result, another record high — 28% — recognized labor quality as their most significant business challenge.
Conservatives believe the $300 weekly federal unemployment insurance bonus that expired in September suppressed the labor market. That makes intuitive sense and Goldman Sachs’ economists project that ending this program “will account for 1.5 million job gains through the end of the year.” But even assuming that is true, there were 5.3 million fewer jobs in August than when the pandemic began.
President Biden blamed the Delta variant in an attempt to explain the low August job data. However, 77% of Americans over the age of 18 have had at least one vaccine shot, and 68% have received both. Each day, over 700,000 additional doses are provided. When unvaccinated persons with natural immunity are included, over 80% of the country already has vaccinated or natural immunity, according to a recent analysis.