Why Is It So Hard to Find Employees Right Now? Understanding America’s Labor Shortage

by Jennifer Cady Nielson

by Amber Edwards
Where has everyone gone? It’s a question that echoes through the empty halls of businesses struggling to find willing workers to fill open jobs. The once vibrant job market has become a ghost town, haunted by the absence of eager applicants and dedicated employees. The heartache of the missing workforce is palpable, as employers grapple with the challenge of filling positions and keeping their businesses afloat.
While The COVID-19 pandemic caused a major disruption in America’s labor force, its aftermath has left a trail of uncertainty and fear in its wake, casting a shadow over the future of work. Recent data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has shown there are approximately 8.5 million job openings but only 6.5 million unemployed workers, meaning there are not enough workers to fill available jobs.
In 2023, 3.1 million more jobs were created by employers and the overall share of the population participating in the labor force declined. A decline in labor force participation can be caused by factors such as a lack of access to affordable childcare, a lower demand for non-college-educated workers, and a higher population rate of illness and disability.
In May 2022, the U.S. Chamber surveyed unemployed workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic and learned some of the reasons why they weren’t returning to work. Almost half of them were unwilling to take jobs that did not offer the opportunity to work remotely. Almost one in five of them have retired, transitioned to homemaker, or are now working part-time. Almost a quarter of them said government aid packages incentivized them to not actively look for work, and those between ages 25 and 34 said they were prioritizing personal growth over searching for a job.
But amidst the heartache and uncertainty, there is hope. Businesses can rise to the challenge of the missing workforce by embracing empathy and understanding. By offering more flexible work options, businesses can show that they care about their employees’ well-being and that they understand the struggles and sacrifices that have been made. By prioritizing mental health resources, investing in company culture, offering paid time off, and a supportive work environment, businesses can create a space where employees are nurtured, and spirits are lifted.
The mystery of the missing workforce may be complex and daunting, but it is not insurmountable. The U.S. Chamber has reported that the hiring rate has outpaced the quit rate since November 2020. This means that Americans are seeking out and discovering better opportunities with new employers and in different occupations and industries. The next crucial step in tackling the labor shortage is to actively implement solutions that will attract and retain new workers. It is in the best interest of employers to consider the needs of unemployed workers. Understanding these factors will be crucial for attracting and retaining talent and will eventually help lead to a decline in the shortage of America’s workforce.

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