August 3 – Economy: Employment since the pandemic

The Pandemic is Ending, Is Employment Returning? 

During the last full year of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021, Americans continued to quit their jobs in record numbers. Job openings hovered near all-time highs, giving workers the highest leverage since before the Omicron variant sent COVID cases soaring.

When the Labor Department reports that 47.4 million workers quit or voluntarily left their jobs that year, the numbers become difficult to contemplate.   But broken down into understandable terms, overall, about one-in-five non-retired American adults (1098 percent of the workforce), with slightly more women than men, say they quit a job at some point during 2021. And these are the folks who left by choice—not because they were fired, laid off, or because a temporary job had ended.   

Adults younger than 30 were far more likely than older adults to have voluntarily left their jobs. There is also a wide variation by income, education, race and ethnicity. 

The pandemic is now in its third year.  Toward the end of 2021, it appeared that cases were diminishing, and then the Omicron variant, first identified in South Africa, quickly spread worldwide.  By the end of the first quarter of 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s community level indicator, showed daily cases increasing. Toward the end of the second quarter, the virus transmissions were lower, and the CDC had “dialed down” its required precautions. 

So, did people begin returning to work?  No. In March 2022 alone, a record 4.3 million workers quit their jobs, again according to the Labor Department. That number equaled the highs of 3.0 percent in November and December of 2021.   

A long -term outlook provided by the Bureau of Labor statistics says employment is projected to grow from 143.4 million to 165.4 million jobs from 2020 to 2030.  Pandemic recovery and growth in healthcare-related occupations are expected to account for a large share of projected job growth.

According to a survey conducted earlier this year, 44 percent of employees who left work now say they are looking for a new job or plan to do so soon. New data shows that most who quit did not do so to “sit on the sidelines,” but were waiting for a strong job market with ample opportunities and higher pay. The current rate of inflation which has eaten into household budgets (also outstripping raises for the average worker) has incentivized a back-to-work goal. 

But these returning employees want less time commuting, lower costs associated with going to the office, and better management of household commitments as their biggest benefits.   But they also see disadvantages: a lack of social interactions at work, feeling disconnected and a greater challenge to build relationships. 

In an opinion piece that appeared in The Hill, the author titled it,” A strong labor market is better than unemployment checks.” Unemployment checks, even those backed by the federal government as part of its virus stimulus packages, eventually run out. 

The Word of God, especially within the book of Proverbs, is replete with the benefits of work. Consider also this admonition from 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12: “Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” 

How then should we pray? 

  • For workers who desire to return to work to be able to find the right employer to connect with. 
  • That employers would understand that, as their businesses begin to return to full capacity, they might need to offer greater benefits as well as  higher wages for their employees. 
  • For leaders in government looking to stimulate business growth and increase job opportunities. 

See previous Pray 7 daily featured readings.

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