Demand for labor is so high right now that there are more job openings than officially unemployed workers in Ohio and across the country. According to the most recent federal data, there were 10.6 million job openings nationwide at the end of November. Meanwhile, the number of unemployed people fell to 6.4 million in December.

According to federal data, 381,00 job openings were posted in Ohio in November. According to the state’s most recent unemployment report for November, there were 275,000 unemployed people.

Worsening the shortage are disgruntled workers quitting in near-record numbers, though many are likely taking better jobs. Federal data show 2.8% of all workers in Ohio, 153,000 in total, quit their jobs in October. While high, that’s down from 3% in August. “The labor market continues to be very tight, led primarily by pandemic factors which are keeping many workers out of the labor force,” said

Ben Ayers, senior economist at Nationwide. “There are more jobs than available workers and record numbers of employees are quitting, both signs of tight market conditions. We have not seen much indication of an easing of the market, especially with COVID cases surging again.”

Employers have responded by raising wages, awarding bonuses, and providing benefits such as college tuition reimbursement. According to federal data, wages in the United States have increased by 4.7 percent in the last year. Workers left the labor force shortly after the pandemic began, and some have yet to return.

Child care issues, as well as the fear of becoming ill or bringing COVID-19 into the workplace, have kept them from working. Older workers retired early, and employers claim that other applicants lack the necessary skills. Ohio still requires approximately 220,000 workers and jobs to return to pre-pandemic levels.

The shortage has been severe in many industries, but lower-wage construction jobs have been the hardest hit. According to, a website created by Opportunity Insights, a Harvard University research institute that tracks the economy’s path during the pandemic, as of August, Ohio employment rates for high-wage workers, defined as those earning at least $60,000 per year, had increased 18.8 percent since the pandemic began.

The increase for middle-wage jobs, those earning $27,000 to $60,000, has been 7.1 percent. However, the state still has 18.8 percent fewer low-wage jobs than it did prior to the pandemic. Workers who have been left behind have complained of burnout as employers add longer shifts and more responsibilities. Businesses will have to adapt in order to keep employees happy and meet customer demands, according to Ayers. This could include, for example, allowing employees to work from home.

“Businesses will have to be creative in this hiring environment and to keep current employees happy,” Ayers said. “But workers are especially valuing advancement opportunities and positive work-life balance which become even more important when comparing job options.”

Fadhel Kaboub, associate professor of economics at Denison University, takes a broader view of who is considered unemployed, which significantly increases the number of people who are eligible for a new job.

“I think that’s misleading in terms of the health of the economy,” Kaboub said of official unemployment data. To be counted as unemployed, people have to be actively looking for work.

However, according to federal data, the pool of potentially eligible workers could be expanded to include the 3.9 million people who work part-time because their hours have been reduced or they are unable to find full-time work. There were also 5.7 million workers who were not counted as being in the labor force but still wanted a job.

He also mentioned that people with disabilities or a criminal record have a difficult time finding work. “The longer you are unemployed, the less likely you are to be hired,” he explained.’

He believes that bringing more people into the labor force requires a multifaceted approach that addresses issues such as training, housing, access to transportation, counseling for those with alcohol or drug addictions, assistance for high school dropouts, and assistance in bringing people back to work who have been in prison. “Also, they’re coded as unemployable,” Kaboub explained.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch

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