Most Distorted Labor Market Ever: Charts by Sector

Job openings spiked to record 11.7 million, while 12.1 million people still claimed unemployment benefits.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

Unfilled job openings have been spiking from record to record, and in July spiked to a new record. And the number of people who quit a job remained in record territory, as companies tried to fill jobs by offering higher wages and signing bonuses and ended up hiring already employed workers away from other companies.

Total unfilled job openings, not seasonally adjusted, spiked by 1.24 million to 11.7 million openings in July, up by 52% from July 2019, according to the JOLTS report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics today. Seasonally adjusted, job openings spiked by 749,000 in July to a record 10.9 million openings.

This data is not based on job ads, but a survey 21,000 nonfarm business establishments and government entities by the Census Bureau, similar to the monthly jobs report:

These 11.7 million job openings are occurring amid sharply higher wages, even as 8.4 million people are deemed to be “unemployed,” according to the monthly jobs report released on Friday, and even as 12.2 million people claimed some form of unemployment compensation.

This is the conundrum of the most distorted labor market ever that is often summarized by the expression of “labor shortage,” as employers see strong demand for their products and services but have trouble hiring, though there is no shortage of people who could work.

But people, for whatever reason, cannot find work they would accept under the conditions offered, or they are still not looking for work, or will never look for work again since they have decided to retire.

Employers reported that their payrolls, at 146.8 million workers, were still down by 5.3 million from February 2020 (green line in the chart below), and households reported that the number of people working, including the self-employed, at 153.2 million, was still down by 5.6 million from February 2020 (red line), according to the BLS jobs report on Friday:

The aggressive efforts to fill open positions with qualified staff by offering higher wages and signing bonuses and better benefits have the effect that employers are hiring people who already have a job. To get those higher wages and the hiring bonus, they quit their old job.

For employees, this is a moment of finally feeling the pricing power of labor. For employers whose employees were poached, this creates new job openings and new headaches.

So the “quits” hit a record in April of nearly 4 million, and in July were back at the record of nearly 4 million people who quit their jobs. This shows how difficult the labor market is for employers in hiring and retaining staff.

A large growing number of quits is the signature of a strong competitive labor market that gives workers leeway to switch jobs and sends employers scrambling to hire and retain staff:

Unfilled job openings by sector.

Education and Health Services: The number of unfilled job openings spiked by a record of 281,000 openings to a record 2.0 million (seasonally adjusted), up 49% from July 2019, as educational institutions reopened and struggled mightily to hire.

Professional and Business Services: Unfilled job openings have been spiking from record to record and in July hit 1.81 million (seasonally adjusted), up 47% from July 2019:

Leisure and hospitality: Unfilled job openings at restaurants, bars, hotels, casinos, etc. has also spiked from record to record and hit 1.82 million in July (seasonally adjusted), up 83% from July 2019:

These 1.82 million unfilled job openings in Leisure and Hospitality show just how tough it is for employers in the sector to fill their open jobs, which are mostly lower-wage jobs and exposed to the public and the risks that come along with it.

In July, 1.13 million jobs were added in leisure and hospitality, according to the BLS jobs report. For reference, and outside the time frame of the JOLTS data, according to the outlier report for August, based on surveys of employers collected by mid-August, zero jobs were added in August. This leaves employment in the sector down by 1.7 million from February 2020:

Healthcare and Social Assistance: Job openings spiked by a record of 294,000 openings to a record 1.79 million in July, up by 48% from July 2019, amid reports that the dramatic surge in Covid hospitalizations has left many hospitals understaffed and added to the existing hiring woes:

Retail Trade: This includes auto dealers, grocery stores, general merchandise operations, mall stores, and all sorts of other retailers. Job openings fell after the record spike that had culminated in June, to 1.1 million, still up by 35% from July 2019:

State and Local Governments: Job openings spiked by 96,000 to a record of 936,000 openings in July, up by 58% from July 2019. This does not include the federal government, whose job openings have remained in the normal range throughout the pandemic, except for the spike around the census:

Manufacturing: Job openings ticked up to another record of 889,000, up by 98% from July 2019.

But employment in manufacturing, at 12.4 million jobs, was still down by 378,000 workers from February 2020 even as over-heated demand for goods sent companies scrambling to hire qualified people:

And manufacturing production in July hit the highest level since February 2019, despite much lower employment and the large numbers of job openings, a sign of increased automation and higher productivity:

Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities: Job openings rose to a record 516,000, up 63% from July 2019:

Construction: Job openings ticked down to 321,000 in July, about flat with July 2019, but still at the high end of the range beyond the one-off-miracle in April 2019:

Wholesale Trade: Job openings ticked up to 290,000 in July, the second highest after April, up by 36% from July 2019:

Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation: Job openings jumped to 235,000, double from July 2019, but down a tad from the April spike:

There is now strong data piling up, based on weekly unemployment insurance claims from the Labor Department, about what might be causing or at least contributing to that “Labor Shortage.” Read… In States that Ended the Extra $300/Week Unemployment Benefits, People Returned to Work at Over Twice the Rate than in the Other States: Data from the Labor Department

Enjoy reading WOLF STREET and want to support it? You can donate. I appreciate it immensely. Click on the beer and iced-tea mug to find out how:

Would you like to be notified via email when WOLF STREET publishes a new article? Sign up here.

  197 comments for “Most Distorted Labor Market Ever: Charts by Sector

  1. RedRaider says:

    The first to post! I’m speechless!

    • ChangeMachine says:

      Why do I get the feeling you’re at home, on unemployment? An unfair assumption since I’m one of those suckers practicing the age old art of slacking off at work. Next I think I’ll check the help wanted ads. :D

      • RedRaider says:

        I’m at home retired.

        And I still haven’t received my Biden stim check. But then my county voted for Trump. Can’t help but feel there’s a cause and effect there.

    • Anthony A. says:

      I think Wolf awards you a silver star for being first to post.

  2. Masked Ghost says:

    Covid is not done with us yet.

    Normal will have to wait.

  3. Sams says:

    Monetary inflation may tricle down to consumer price and wage inflation. It look like wages are rising at the moment, but enough to catch up with CPI and cost of living?

  4. ChangeMachine says:

    Good luck!

  5. Seneca's cliff says:

    The other day I spent on hour driving around town (PDX) doing some errands for work that I had been putting off. My drive took me on many shortcuts through residential areas on a Wednesday ,just after lunch. Everywhere I went I saw working age folks sitting in lawn chairs, washing cars, packing up stuff on their roof racks, cleaning out campers, throwing baseballs and frisbees and such. It looked like the first sunny Saturday in the spring.

    • otishertz says:

      I went out for a drink in PDX with an old friend at 2 on a Tuesday. The bees on 28th were packed.

      2pm on a Tuesday!

    • Depth Charge says:

      Probably the “work from home” crowd not working as usual. WFH = slack off while pretending to work.

  6. Ron says:

    My brother works at liquor distributor raised wages across the board about 25% after years of fighting cheap wages and turnover finally figured out turnover more expensive than retention plus with good wages get better help can’t wait till management gets there nuts cut off haha

  7. polecat says:

    Well, who’s to say if .. even moarrr plebs .. STUpid or otherwise, decide that sitting-in .. and waitin-it-out is what’s in circulation, that, rhetorically-like .. ALL the little Emporers won’t find their personal version of Darth V chucking them down the nearest proverbial DeathStar ventilation shaft.

    Strike Proteans vs Spike Proteins

  8. Anthony A. says:

    Every morning at a local Burger King I order the same coffee and breakfast sandwich and sit with my ROMEO group. Every day I get rung up a different price (within a dollar..up or down a few cents). I just pay it.

    That’s where the stupid people are going. My gut feeling is that the person punching the register button with the words on it can’t read English. But they come to work every day!

    • otishertz says:

      BK ROMEO group = retired old men eating offal?

      • Anthony A. says:

        Close….Retired Old Men Eating Out! (no wives or significant others allowed)

      • otishertz says:

        Well, at least you aren’t in catfood grandma knitting circle and book club at Pankake House.

        / Just joking, AA.

    • Swamp Creature says:

      Anthony A

      I heard you have a seat reserved for you. Some dude took your spot the other day and you chewed his sorry a$s out big time.

      • Anthony A. says:

        SC: After 15 years of these meetups, we all have reserved seats. Only when one of us goes to permanently visit the The Big Guy In The Sky, do we reassign his seat.

        New dudes go thru an orientation….LOL

    • El Katz says:

      Want to have some real fun? Pay them with cash and watch them struggle trying to figure out the change.

      • Realist says:

        About the worst thing you can do is to pay with a note and a few coins to get less coins back. It is often too much for the person recieving the payment to cope with. In long bygone times it was represented by a “tilt. Syntax error”

      • Khowdung Flunghi says:

        “Pay them with cash and watch them struggle trying to figure out the change.” — One of the unrecognized downsides of inflation. Once upon a time, we dealt with coins routinely and math became almost second nature. Guess it’s no surprise no one can add 2 + 2 and get the correct answer.

    • Andrew says:

      Then again the front line workers are at the bottom. I would blame management for creating confusing menu deals, poor training and, most likely, a grueling work environment.

      • Wisdom Seeker says:

        I’m with Andrew.

        Menus and processes are definitely more complicated than 20-30 years ago.

        I think today’s front-line workers are doing all right given what they have to put up with.

      • otishertz says:

        Menus are hard, so is math.

        Why so difficult?

        Triumph of the stupefying education system.

        Mission accomplished.

    • Paul from NC says:

      I see something similar around here (though not at the BK). You really wanna blow their minds, pay in cash and watch the wheels turn.

    • Sams says:

      Around here the person punching the rigister is mostly gone. Even at McDonalds there is self serve. There are large touch screens where you place your order and a card reader that read the debit card. If you do not pay with the phone in some way.

      Resturants with tables have a QCR code on the table, scan the code to get the menu and order. Order is processed when payd by crediti card of phone.

  9. Ron says:

    Our kids have no skills except for gaming wonder why China is doing a crackdown

    • Kaleberg says:

      Yeah, but they understand the complex rules of the games and can do the relevant math just fine.

  10. MCH says:

    you know, the reason there are so many job openings and so many unemployed is not because of the Fed unemployment benefits.

    It’s really because of a skills mismatch, the skill in question being the ability to get up off one’s ass to do something after 18 months of sitting around and ordering stuff online.

    • Dave says:

      Or perhaps people are tired of working a thankless low wage job while exposing themselves to the public during a pandemic…..

      And lets not forget their healthcare is questionable at best or not provided at all

      Ask me how I know, as that was my past life……

      • Daedalus says:

        Thanks, Dave.

        I think this little COVID problem has given a few people time to think, and those who were kept ‘busy’ and ‘entertained’ suddenly had a brief chance to peek behind the curtain. At least, I hope that’s the situation.

      • MCH says:

        Yep, so, let’s all make a choice to have no skills and be bums.

        Here is the thing, yes, it sucks to work for the man, but ultimately, if you don’t, the man doesn’t get hurt. He is sure not going to help you. If the thinking is I am not going to work for the man, I find another way to support myself, great…. But let’s face it, the law of averages will tell you that this just will not work out forever.

        And if you are depending on the government… heheh… then you haven’t actually read what Wolf has been posting.

      • sydneycollin says:

        “And if you are depending on the government… heheh… then you haven’t actually read what Wolf has been posting.”

        Relying on government bailouts has been rather profitable for many a corporation, so why not for the individual?

        Or is the term “bum” or “welfare queen” a disparaging remark reserved just for some?

      • MCH says:


        If you truly think the peanuts the government is throwing at people while grossly distorting the economy even further is “helping” the “people”… well, who am I to disabuse you of that notion.

        By all means, more government help to the unemployable. It doesn’t bother me one bit. After all, what happens when you give money to people who aren’t educated enough to know what to do with it…

        But imagine a world where the only expectation is to be bailed out by someone else… yep, it’s very cheerful thought.

      • sydneycollin says:


        Yes, only “educated” folks know what to do with money.


    • RedRaider says:

      Here’s my list of reasons from most to least important.

      1. Boomers working beyond retirement age decided to call it quits
      because of the pandemic. Guess they didn’t like being ordered to
      get the jab.

      2. Small businesses going out of business.

      3. The workers aren’t where the job openings are. Maybe
      outmigration from populous states/cities is larger than we think.

      3. Employers trying to rehire laid off workers at year and a half out
      of date wage levels.

      4. Skills mismatch.

      5. Laid off workers pushing enhanced unemployment and stim
      checks for all its worth.

  11. 2banana says:

    They test them.

    Which is a bigger burger?

    A 1/4 pounder or a 1/3 pounder?

    • otishertz says:

      Try asking for 2/5 or 3/5 a pound of sliced meat at any deli. You will get blank stares and an Uhh. Haven’t tried 2/4 yet. I bet it still works.

      It’s cruel I know but I only do it if I perceive stink eye above the mask.

      • RoseN says:

        I have asked for 2/3’s and received confused looks. I then decided to smarten up and go by the numbers on the weighing machine. Asking for .66 made things even worse. Now I order 1/2 pound and then ask them to add a little more.

      • Kaleberg says:

        Deli meat is sold by pounds and hundredths. Asking for 23/57 or 113/355 of a pound is just asking for trouble. I just ask for a pound or a half pound or the like. If the clerk could do decimal fractions in his or her head, he or she’d be working a better job. It’s not like these people are paid a fortune. Sometimes you get what you pay for.

    • RH says:

      Sadly, I think that most teenagers would fail that question. As a commenter said, it is a skills mismatch.

      I myself had that experience of applying for a job for which I was not truly qualified, e.g., despite my education, I did not have the relevant, specific experience for years, and was rejected. Employers truly do not want to hire people that they will have to educate. Their job listings often have particular requirements that prompt many to rationally not even to apply due to their not meeting them.

      Also, I heard that they are double-counting available jobs, because job listings and job fair interviews, etc., are all counted for the same jobs, so the true number of jobs available is less. The government has been playing games with the numbers, e.g., inflation’s CPI, for so long that I believe it.

      • Wolf Richter says:


        This data is not based on job postings or ads or job fairs, but on surveys of 21,000 establishments about their hiring plans. The surveys are conducted by the Census, similar to the monthly jobs report.

  12. Chris says:

    One has to wonder when this type of moralizing about the jobs numbers becomes ideological on the level of the Soviet.
    Should people be expected to take up (or return to) BS jobs that aren’t productive and don’t provide a decent livelihood?
    Or should the families finally getting a child stipend really send the second spouse out to work at a coffee shop, just so Wolf’s charts go back down?

    Honestly, check out some David Graeber if you’re worried about “distortions” in the labor markets.
    When one can’t even provide what a basis should be following a pandemic, how can one the actual conditions a distortion.

    • Wisdom Seeker says:

      @Chris – I hear you. I suspect we’ve gone from a long period of stability, not to a happier “new normal” but possibly to a challenging “no normal” … a time of great and sometimes frightening changes.

      Fortunately the sun rises every day and brings us fresh chances.

  13. Beardawg says:

    I am guessing the flat or slightly dropping job vacancies in construction have to do with material shortages. Can’t construct if you don’t have materials ? When they do work, however, they are making BANK !!

  14. Daedalus says:

    Most ‘available jobs’ have been turned into doggie doo-doo by ‘managers’ who have no idea how to make something of (or adding to) social value. This has been going on for a while, of course. But the idea that people should shovel doo-doo and be happy with their subordinate position just isn’t a human quality.

    Most people want to work. It gives them ‘purpose’ and allows them to show off their skills (gain social respect). The problem is the mis-match.

    Slaves were ‘fully employed’ and got free room and board. Why would they complain?

  15. Swamp Creature says:

    These charts demonstrate a sickness in our society. People who are able bodied and can work should be assigned a job. An effort should be made to match the person as close as possible to their job skills. All IE benefits should end. They did that in the military when the draft was in place. Worked then and it would work now. END OF STORY.

    • otishertz says:

      That’s a horrifying idea.

    • Jules says:

      Thanks swamp creature!

      Here, have a fly.

    • KGC says:

      Yes, the military matching skills to positions is so well known it’s been a stereotype for decades. It has not got better, but now so few actually meet the basic entry requirements a recruiter will take what they can get.

      I believe there should be a limit to unemployment benefits, because otherwise there’s no incentive to put any effort into finding work. But exactly what those benefits should be? It certainly doesn’t seem to work to pay folks more to stay home than they were making working.

      For most of my life I had to move to increase my pay or find a better job, or sometimes just to stay employed. Not across town, but usually across the country, and several times out of it. I don’t see that very often when looking thru applications now days. Suggesting such a course of action to the 18-30 year olds in my family gets me all kinds of push back from everyone; kids, parents, etc.

    • Wisdom Seeker says:

      LOL… What could possibly go wrong with people who are already unwilling to find a job, now being “assigned” to a job?

      If you’re willing to try that, then why not take the 19th century British approach of tossing anyone without a job into Debtor’s Prison? Put them to work on a chain gang? Why not go full 18th Century and send them off to Afghanistan penal colonies overseas to survive or die?

    • polecat says:

      So it did for one’s neighbors, family members, or fellow church goers (pick one .. or, if you don’t like those, I have others.. along with the added plus of the probability of someone’s body parts a-flyin in some bogus, drafty jungle WAR .. now a Desert one for any enlisters out there.

      Worked like peach for sooo many … $enate, MIC, and Corporate Whores!

    • OutsideTheBox says:


      I want to assign YOU a job.

      It won’t be in your skillset.

      The joy of watching you struggle to learn new skills will be epic !

    • Swamp Creature says:

      Judging from some of the brain dead comments I’ve just received, I think its time to bring back universal military service. Those who have never served their country think a lot differently than those who have.

      • Rudolf Zimmer says:

        Yes, i loved my country. After military service not so much anymore. I didn’t get help when i need it. After i made it without their help they requested my money and called it tax. I left my country and miss my home but not my country.

      • drifterprof says:

        “I think its time to bring back universal military service.”

        That might not be a good idea in terms mass murders in the United States. About 35% of mass murder shooters are military veterans.

        Maybe better to have some kind of public works like CCC and WPA and other Depression-Era Programs.

        • Swamp Creature says:


          The way the Vietnam Vets were treated after they returned home from NAM I’m not surprised. Many needed mental illness treatment for PTSD and counceling, and never got it.

        • RedRaider says:

          I’ve always wondered, does the military deprogram soldiers before they discharge them?

        • Swamp Creature says:

          I interviewed a family friend who was a marine and fought in Okinawa during WWII. He told me the marines were trained killers and did their jobs with precision. He also told me he was surprised that there weren’t more murders by Vets after the war. He was right., There wasn’t any spike in violent crimes.

          Today Vets are committing suicide at the rate of 22/day. Violent crime by returning Vets is out of control. Maybe sending them to multiple deployments in hell holes like IRAQ and Afghanistan may have something to do with it.

      • KGC says:

        First, the USA never had universal military service. Second, they couldn’t even bring back the draft if they wanted to; the military doesn’t know how to train people who don’t want to be trained, they’re not allowed to effectively discipline people who don’t want to conform, and the bases are made to keep people out, not in. Let alone only about 1% of the population of the USA is actually capable of meeting the standards to serve nowadays.

        • Swamp Creature says:


          You don’t know what you are talking about. During the Vietnam War, every abled bodied man either volunteered or was drafted. That is the closest thing to universal military service. I wish the morons who post comments like this and who never served in the military would stop posting this bulls$hit on this site. This post is without a doubt the worst pile of crap I have ever read.

        • Wisdom Seeker says:

          @Swamp re: Vietnam.

          Somehow dozens of today’s able-bodied political leaders managed to avoid service in Vietnam, along with millions of others. Including multiple Presidents. How was that service “universal”, then?

          KGC has a point. People who wanted to dodge, managed to dodge.

          I would actually support a universal service requirement, if in fact it were universal, if there were some way to eliminate all possibility of string-pulling. In the modern spirit of inclusion, every 18 year old regardless of gender or bodily capacity could be assigned a job for a year … it would be an excellent contrary lesson in the perils and futility of trusting one’s future to a centralized bureaucracy. But it better not be military service, we need a military that can actually fight effectively.

        • RedRaider says:

          My older brother had a group of friends who got drafted during the Viet Nam war. He told the story about his friends bringing along a picnic basket on ten mile hikes. They would find a shady tree and have a picnic. The sergeant would threaten them with punishment to which they responded “Yea? What are you gonna do? Send us to Nam?”

          I don’t think you can force people to do what they don’t want to do. Well, maybe the stupid ones.

        • Anthony A. says:

          Hey Red Raider, I was drafted in 1964 during the war. We did not have any picnic baskets. And if you tried to pull off some shit like that you got sent out first in the morning to see where the guys with the slanted eyes were coming from. All by your self.

          And, if you cried like a baby in basic, they made you into a man. No one got sent home. Your brother’s story is bullshit.

    • sam says:

      While you at it:
      1)defund single mothers
      2)tax all churches

    • Gilbert says:

      My experience in the military was not as you describe. My college major was accounting but “they” stuck me in the ship’s engine room.

    • roddy6667 says:

      My wife had that in China, before Deng Xiaopeng and capitalism. You were assigned a job for life. It worked for a while, then was phased out. I don’t think it would work at all in America.

  16. jon says:

    Anecdotal evidence: My friend is unemployed for last 15 months. He is looking for a job for last few months or so but could not find any so far. No a single offer.
    He used to be a Lecturer in local state university. I don’t think he’d be working in Burger King unless there is no way out.

    All these jobs out means nothing to him

    • Daedalus says:

      Bingo!, jon.

      People who are truly educated know there’s more to life than being a slave.

      • Paul from NC says:

        Completely agree – jobs suck (so many things) out of you. But…how do these educated and jobless people eat? Panhandle? I want to know their secret.

    • Anthony A. says:

      Jon, has he thought about going to school to gain some marketable skills over the last 15 months of sitting on his back end? I don’t believe there is a real demand for college lecturers (unless I am mistaken).

      • polecat says:

        Oh THAT’S the ticket! .. Go into hock trying to grapple whatever fetid diplomic pigskin some unlearnin institution tosses atcha. They get the grifted goodies, whilst the poor sot receives nothing of true value.

        The Hour is already late – too late for most.

    • Ron says:

      Get commercial drivers license will be employed in a week

      • BrianC - PDX says:

        True that. At least in the PNW. CDL class costs ~$6000 and takes about 4 weeks.

        Interesting thing here is that there are plenty of hourly day driver jobs doing local work. Home every night. Not paid by the mile. No experience needed. Just need to be able to pass a drug test and background check and show up on time.

    • JK says:

      Tell him to get a commercial drivers license and he could lecture on a CB and make good molaah.

      My Grandpa came here in his mid 30’s, no English, no place to sleep, a suitcase. Died a millionaire with a paid off 24 unit apartment complex and plenty of cash.

      Americans are fantastic whiners. Quit complaining, take a job, learn skills, and move on up the ladder.

      Swamp Crature, I got your back! :)

      • ishi says:

        This isn’t your grandpa’s America. Wealth was not consolidated at the level it is today. Upward Mobility and financialization of every imperative aspect of life was not as evident during the Great generation.

        Yes they’re still opportunity but we are slowly becoming more like the UK and a class-based system.

        If the people that don’t want the low paying jobs NOW run out of money to support themselves, they will all come running to work at Burger King. I think it’s only a matter of time

        Also it should be noted that housing costs simply can’t be supported in many areas with a hospitality or retail job.

        • KGC says:

          My neighbors 20 year old daughter is averaging $300/night waiting tables, and that’s not at a really fancy place. You can afford to live pretty well on that hospitality job.

        • Michael Gorback says:

          KGC, do those tables have poles or is the restaurant in a truck stop?

        • OutsideTheBox says:


          She is 20 and nubile. Her earnings come from her youthful sex appeal to stupid, drunken men.

          A temporary advantage at best.

      • Swamp Creature says:



        I was at a car wash the other day, A healthy Vet was at the end of the wash wiping the cars down. He had an artificial leg which was probably to due an IED injury in Afghanistan and was still working. That’s the example of work ethic and character we should be admiring.

    • JessByChocolate says:

      There’s definitely opportunity and money to be earned by creating courses for the web, students of the world who are career changers, homeschoolers, retirees, the general population. There are abundant free courses and seminars to teach people how to design them, film them, market them, etc. on Eventbrite, at libraries and elsewhere. Your friend can create lectures a single time and profit from them pretty passively ever after. He can create a business entity dirt cheap nowadays online and start connecting with his target market and his competitors on LinkedIn and attend virtual networking sessions for free as well. LinkedIn will even teach you how to use their platform optimally. This effort can lead to speaking engagements and live events and corporate trainings and consulting and the potential goes on. Perhaps he never considered self employment, but why not try it in the meantime? There are certain tax advantages to be captured. People are creating niches for themselves in surprising areas. When he needs a break from the screen, he can work in allied education or get outside…I noticed at a restaurant last night in a local newspaper just lying on the counter that my county is paying crossing guards $17.50 an hour. It’s a split shift, morning and afternoon. You get to see cute kids and groggy teenagers and undercaffeinated adults and wear bright orange while you collect some vitamin D. :) You can do anything for 3 or 4 hours, especially if there’s a nice pause in between, or at least I feel that I can. Even with some drudgery. Work will always be work and life is about tradeoffs. He should go where the demand is. One last thing, my partner is a medical school professor and physician. Even the med students are demanding(and getting) less classroom/mandatory lecture time. They want recordings so that the material can be accessed anytime. Education is evolving, and the delivery is changing. Quality is a different topic, but there will be more casualties as models and budgets and technologies change. I hope your friend finds or creates a great next thing.

      • Beardawg says:


        Good guidance. However, internet entrepreneurial “jobs” are only viable if you are trying to crack into a super high demand area – and that can obviously change quickly. You mentioned “free” courses and seminars to teach you how to become an internet millionaire.

        I have a close friend who puts out high quality high resolution training videos with fantastic content. She has tried for years to catch on with corporate training departments while trying the “direct to public” routes as well (Facebook / YouTube Ads etc). She has probably spent $25K and recouped about $300 over 2 years. There are countless people out there with the “See One, Do One, Teach One” approach. They have a Cell phone camera and they put themselves out as experts. Since they give it away for free, the pros (like my friend) simply cannot compete.

  17. VoltaMom says:

    We are on holiday at a beach town on the US East Coast. Nearly every shop and restaurant (hundreds) has a ‘we’re hiring’ sign. Even the ice cream shop will pay $15/hour! What a great wage. And the restaurants have signs inside saying be kind to our short staffed servers. In years past, many of these jobs were filled by kids from Europe on summer work visas. Not this year… The town will survive, but I think it’s been tough for some businesses.

    • otishertz says:

      Golly, a whole $15 an hour! Compare the annual rent in your SE coastal town with the annual wage.

      $15 an hour X 40 hours X 52 weeks = $31,200
      1 BR rental at $1600 with utilities = $19,200
      Difference = $12,000
      Federal income tax = $2,039
      Leftover = $9,961 / 12 = $830.08 a month for everything else.

      Including clothes, food, state income taxes, sales taxes, transportation and vehicle maintenance, Medical care (HAHAHAHAHAHA), ipad, christmas, child support… .

      • otishertz says:

        I neglected to include $1,934 in social security and $452 in medicare = $2,386. The standard deduction, that I also didn’t include, would offset that but based on the above calculations it leaves a $15/hr worker with about $207 a week to pay everything besides rent, utilities and taxes.

        Try supporting a child on that.

        People are heralding a new age of fabulous job availability but they are not the ones looking for a way to feasibly survive.

        • otishertz says:

          Meanwhile $2.3 trillion spent on a foreign adventure to only ultimately retreat in Afghanistan. Because Bin Laden in a cave maybe. That money could have done so much for the people you see on the street in any large town.

          Meanwhile, how about universal heath care in a pandemic… ? Crickets.

        • CZ says:

          Summer beach-town service workers need their share of rent in a 12-person group hovel, plus $100 week for weed and beer — $15/hour meets this amply.

        • Depth Charge says:

          The housing bubble needs to pop. It’s destroying society.

      • RightNYer says:

        With all due respect, $15/hour jobs are not meant to support a family. Those are meant for college kids or people right out of high school.

        • 728huey says:

          Why do people keep pushing this crap? We all know high school and college kids can’t work the early morning and midday shifts at fast food restaurants because they’re supposed to be in school. Yet these same people saying these jobs are just for kids feel so entitled to rant at those unfortunate workers who accidentally give just one conailer of coffee creamer instead of two as they’re going through the drive-thru on their way to work, or they get barbecue sauce instead of sweet and sour sauce for their McNuggets at lunch. Should we just close down these places and only open them up at 4:00 pm then?

      • Paul from NC says:

        Bruh, its an ice cream shop!!! This is a job for high-school kids. I would’ve killed for $15/hour in high school (and it wasn’t that long ago)!!!

        • josap says:

          If you were my kid you would be in school. And your homework is done in the evenings. Maybe you want to play a sport or join a club.

          I also want to have dinner at the table, so there is a conversation about everyone’s day.

        • Paul from NC says:

          Josap, yeah yeah that’s all fine. I did all those things and managed to work 4 hours every day after school with no issues. We did not do dinner together, parents were too busy working so we could eat. :-P

      • FluffyGato says:

        I get the sense this is summer work (it’s at a beach town during tourist season).

        For the HS/college-aged student, this is good $$$ over a 10-12 week period.

        They will be sharing a 1BR apt with 1-3 other roommates.

        There will be no taxes as they will be under the annual threshold.

        So many completely incorrect assumptions.

    • Kurtismayfield says:

      15 an hour = $7200 for the summer.

      How much does housing cost in this beach community?

    • Daedalus says:

      Let’s see…. $15 per hour is about $600 per week (before deductions, of course). This is way less than $3k per month. Toss in a 2 week ‘vacation’, and you got $30k per year (before deductions). WOW!

      Most colleges charge at least that much for annual tuition, but expect the students to be able to attend classes for about 9 months. When I was in school I could earn my entire tuition at a ‘tony’ school working 3 months a year (either steel mill or pool lifeguard). How do you expect these kids to survive?

      • otishertz says:

        A freind’s kid went to Amsterdam for college and is getting a degree in three years at about 1/3 the cost of a US indoctrination.

        A student in the early 90’s used to be able to pay for college with a job at the grocery store.

        At $250k-ish for an average US edu-doctrination with meals and housing you’d have to work at the grocery for 20 years to pay for it. What then is the point.

        Our leaders can’t do simple mathematics or understand statistics.

        • polecat says:

          Oh they understand plenty – It’s called “GIMME”

          Now I ask you, who are the real bums & ‘welfare cheats’ ??

      • otishertz says:

        I made $12.50 to $14.00 an hour as a lifeguard and pool manager in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

        Let that sink in.

        • Seneca’s Cliff says:

          My wife made enough working a summer engineering internship job on Maui to pay for a full years tuition at an Ivy League University in 1980.

      • Old School says:

        Politicians determine a lot of stuff about the economy. Allowing China in the WTO and NAFTA were big deals along with open border policies. If you worked blue collar manufacturing you got screwed over pretty good.

        Some people came out winners. Higher Ed was one I think as money certainly flowed in that direction

        • ishi says:

          That ain’t going to last forever. I think a lot of people are waking up if it’s just not worth it anymore

      • josap says:

        Most of these “ice cream” jobs are part-time. No overtime, no health insurance, very little in UE paid at the end of the season.

    • MiTurn says:

      ” Even the ice cream shop will pay $15/hour! What a great wage.”

      Which means price inflation for the rest of us.

      • Ethan in NoVA says:

        I mean, a medium DQ blizzard is like $5. It would take the sale of 4 of them to pay the hourly wage of the employee at $15, guessing on the overhead.

        For most of these McJobs, it seems like the employee’s higher salary hour should be paid for by a few transactions easily.

    • phoenix says:

      “$15/hour! What a great wage” lmaooo

  18. Keepcalmeverythingisfine says:

    So I’ll give you a boots on the ground report. I hire a young person at $25/hr to do work that requires being organized and following instructions. I comb through a zillion resumes and interviews and finally find what appears to be the right person. I know that about 1 in 10 of my hires actually work out to be excellent employees long term, so I expect the worse, and of course this person lied about their experience and can’t do anything right. To make matters worse, they are a sociopath and make the whole office edgy. Good thing I kept the ad going. That’s how it works. You can cut that job opening number by a divisor of 10. It is a job float number, not real.

    • otishertz says:

      Good point about the float. I also kept a want ad going continuously due to disappointing employees and flakes. The most disappointing ones were recent college graduates. They come with so much political baggage from their academic indoctrination that they are a (mostly) silent threat that can sow destruction with one perceived slight or any number of learned grievances.

      Avoid most recent undergraduate college grads. They are not worth the trouble they can cause.

      Depending on the work, if it is not particularly hard, you will find grateful employees who never went to college while the college grads will never be satisfied because they were sold the american dream along with the soft eviction from Mom’s house at 18 to enforce that dream.

      The math just doesn’t add up to any dream, folks.

      • Wolf Richter says:


        “Good point about the float.”

        No, lousy point about the float. See my comment below. This isn’t based on ads but on surveys of 21,000 employers, just like the surveys that the jobs report is based on.

      • Grassroots says:

        I agree the float is a good point. Sure, Wolfe refers to “survey” by gov agency. Gov rep calls company rep that is essentially floating job ads (most are doing it) – Wolfe’s logic is that employer/company will respond to gov surveyor that it is not hiring, but in reality the employer will say it is actively seeking talent (essentially, talent for the soon-to-quit or be-fired current talent). The poster also made another good point in that he is getting a lot of resumes per job ad. A couple of manufacturers I contacted (HR) — public company with facilities all over the U.S.; makes wood-based products — said it receives 100 applications for every 1 hire. HR the majority are qualified for the ‘no-experience, will train positions.’ Those that aren’t qualified fail a drug test. The company has ads/banners practically everywhere for over a year nonstop; it gives current employees a bonus for a good referral; it provides a $2k sign-on bonus. I asked some people who recently got hired at this, and similar companies, and several told me they had to call and email numerous times to even get a response from the HR team. Something is amiss. Companies “can’t find talent” but then are inundated with 100+ apps (majority are qualified) for each position and HR never even responds to 90% of the applicants unless they are assertive in calling/demanding the job. LinkedIn has lengthy threads about similar anecdotes mostly related to white-collar and tech jobs. One can easily test this by preparing different types of resumes and apps and documenting a response — make an applicant appear middle-aged, white, and educated and apply to some of these “now hiring” ads and witness the silence/non-response from “employers.”

        I call BS based on grassroots data.

    • peanut gallery says:

      How old is this loser?

    • Wolf Richter says:


      Nope. Your comment is BS for 2 reasons:

      1. the data doesn’t come from advertised jobs, but from surveys by the Census/BLS of employers.

      Just like the monthly jobs report. This has nothing to do with ads:

      “The survey design is a random sample of 21,000 nonfarm business establishments, including factories, offices, and stores, as well as federal, state, and local governments in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.”

      2. The float you describe, if it exists, always exists.

      Your idea of float doesn’t apply here since this isn’t based on ads. But I’m playing along with you for a minute.

      The float would be a CONSTANT. It’s always that way. It has zero impact on the change from 2019 to 2021.

      But it may not even exist because large and medium size employers may put out 1 ad to hire 50 people to fill 50 of the same jobs, such as 50 jobs at a big call center. A big car dealer may be looking for 5 sales people, and run 1 ad (that’s how we did it).

      Now, with that out of the way, try to look at the charts and figure out what CHANGED — namely the jobs that are available.

      • otishertz says:

        I think that the point was there are many job openings that are for positions already filled. Meaning, that a hire in this case usually equals a corresponding fire. The point about the float seems valid to me.hard to quantify though.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          It’s not based on ads but on surveys of 21,000 employers.

        • Wisdom Seeker says:

          I think it’s not about the # of ads but about the likely short tenure of many new hires, i.e. the churn.

          If a typical employee stays employed at one organization for 10 years, and requires 1 month to replace, then job openings will be about 1% of total employment. But if an employee stays for only 1 year, then openings will be about 10% of total employment.

          A different way to look at it would be to ask why Quits is at all-time highs. The usual explanation is people are finding better jobs and moving up the chain. But that has the side impact of driving employers to report more and more job openings.

          A certain amount of churn is natural; the 2009 low is probably a floor. Since then monthly quits have gone from ~1.5M/month to ~4M/month. The current run-rate is nearly 50 million Quits/year in an economy with only ~150 million workers. That’s an average tenure of only 3 years!

          Toss in the firings and other separations and the monthly churn is approaching 6M/month, i.e. 72 million job changes/year… so just over 2 years’ average tenure at a given employer.

          An optimist might say that with the large post-war generation reaching retirement age, a lot of organizations are coping with a wave of retirements by frantically hiring younger people, who are moving rapidly up the career ladders by job-hopping.

        • otishertz says:

          Surveys are even more unreliable than actual want ads. There is huge self selection bias in surveys, plus the framing of question options to lean the results one way or another, and if they are phone surveys, well, who answers their phone for an unknown number anymore?

          I have zero faith in surveys, especially labor surveys. I look at the labor participation rate. Less room for lies there.

        • Wolf Richter says:


          “There is huge self selection bias in surveys,”

          Maybe in half-assed internet surveys of 1,000 folks. But these are Census surveys. Read the methodology. See the link above.

          “The survey design is a random sample of 21,000 nonfarm business establishments, including factories, offices, and stores, as well as federal, state, and local governments in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.”

          I have been part of those surveys as head of my company. You get a post card, sent to your company’s business address which was randomly selected, and you’re compelled to respond. There is no self-selection. You respond by logging into the Census website with the login info on the post card. I don’t know what the penalty is for not responding. But you have to respond.

          “I have zero faith in surveys….”

          Nearly all economic data that go into GDP are survey based, surveys of households or surveys of “establishments.” Take it or leave it. If you’re trying to measure any part of the economy, you’re going to look at survey data.

      • Keepcalmeverythingisfine says:

        Now hold on there Mr. Richter. Let’s say I am part of that survey, and I look at my job openings posted on our “employment opportunities” on our web site, and barf out a number at the survey caller. A lot of those jobs are there for reasons that have nothing to do with the intent to hire. I don’t think you quite have a good handle on what it takes to build a solid base of employees, with all due respect. I said “ads, and what I should have said is “postings.”

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Oh lordy. As HR executive, you don’t look at your job ads/postings to see what your hiring plans are. This is just nuts. I mean, come on. Get real!

        • grassroots says:

          I thought it is common knowledge that gov’t data — especially survey data — can’t be trusted. Even company financial statements need adjusted to get a better picture of the company. Only newbies take financial statements and gov’t surveys at face value. Review the disparity with gov’t unemployment or inflation and the Shadow Stats. Nuff said.

        • Wolf Richter says:


          So you just concoct your own ideas and call it data so it fits your own narrative — as you did in your other comment. Sure is a lot easier.

    • sam says:

      “Fire fast, hire slow”. – HBR article: Greg McKeown’s

      Of course real life is never that clear cut & simple.

      Your mileage won’t vary.

  19. Mike says:

    Unfortunately, the story is more complex than just unfilled job openings. Looking at job openings alone is deceiving. The least costly expense for an employer is to post a job opening. Until they fill that opening with a hire, their cost is minimal so the number of job openings fails to tell the whole story of the labor market.

    While job openings in the private sector rose by 655,000 in July, Hires actually dropped by 232,000, which makes the labor market less robust than if you only look at job openings.

    At the moment, it looks like there is a standoff between the compensation being offered by employers and the compensation being demanded by workers. The employer can post any number of job openings, but unless that employer commits to a level of compensation to attract workers with the right skills, those jobs will go unfilled, so it is up to the employer to decide whether to raise their compensation levels or go without workers. Better to increase your costs by hiring or lose potential business by not hiring?

    For the worker, the decision is whether to take a position at the current offered compensation or forgo that job in hopes of finding something better. We know that a worker’s past wage level determines their future wage levels, so taking a lower paid job means future relatively lower earnings as well.

    Meanwhile, quits rose by 102,000 over the month, while the number of layoffs and discharges also increased by 99,000 in the private sector, so even though employers say they want more workers, other employers are discharging workers at almost the same level as those who are voluntarily leaving their jobs.

    • Wolf Richter says:


      If you look at the charts, you will see that there are vast differences by sector. The overall numbers you cited (and that I cited) are kind of useless.

      So I gave you for example charts for 1. manufacturing job openings, 2. manufacturing total employment, and 3. manufacturing production. Look at the relationship. Manufacturers are trying to hire employees for their types of jobs. So what you need to understand is the change from 2019 to now.

      To say that posting a job is nearly free and that therefore companies are doing it is nonsense because it’s ALWAYS nearly free. That is a constant and hasn’t changed. What changed was the number of open jobs.

      • otishertz says:

        Used to cost me $200-300 per one werk ad in the newspaper classifieds around 2000. I’d day that situation has changed a lot.

        Heck, I remember paying Sprint $300 a month for a one line yellow pages listing.

        • VintageVNvet says:

          Good Point ohz:
          Year 2000 was when I decided to become an employee/contractor for private company(s) again after 7 years of relative relaxation and low pay working for guv mint.
          2000 job search was always by using internet to read local newspapers where I wanted to work, starting close to home in flyover, then going farther afield for the money and social reasons.
          Most recent searches since 2015 until recent retirement have been totally through ”postings” on national websites rather than classified ads.
          Your comment also reminded me of putting an ad in the SF Chron for $5/hour unskilled construction help one Sunday in 1981. 60 guys showed up the following Saturday morning by 0800; 12 lasted until noon and were hired on; 4 lasted and had more than double their pay by one year anniversary.
          Guy just quoted me $300/day for unskilled labor here in the saintly part of TPA bay area; it was $100 per day exactly 6 years ago.

        • ishi says:

          Did you call your buddy Abraham Lincoln for hiring advise?

      • Wisdom Seeker says:

        I see at the BLS Jolts website that state-level JOLTS data will be available soon (October). It’ll be very interesting to compare states (Enders vs. Keepers) in terms of job availability as well as unemployment!

  20. Sea Creature says:

    Well, up to before covid, it seemed that wages -vs- expectations were getting more and more mis-aligned each year (I try to tell young people how good things were like in the 80s and early 90s compared to post 2000s, most cannot imagine)).

    Covid caused people to re-evaluate ‘is this really worth it?’ and conclude maybe ‘no’. (of course the free govt money helped too ;-) ).

    A while back (just before covid) my wife was looking at going to get a job for extra spending money. We looked at the costs of this (an extra car, no more home cooked meals, more stress), versus the meager pay being offered pretty much anyplace these days (along with expenses and taxes..) and figured it wasn’t worth the bother.. She was better off staying home and doing projects around here given how how pay has gotten for general type jobs..

    We are probably not the only ones who came to that conclusion..

  21. davie says:

    Does anyone else see the contradiction of the tear we’re apparently supposed to cry for the poor powerless business owner who can’t figure out how to find new workers, after they also liquidated workers en mass 16 months ago?

    If employers weren’t ready for a pandemic, and couldn’t keep their staff on, and don’t know how to incentivize people to work, why should we feel sorry for them operating their business as poorly as they saw fit?

    It could even be an option, from all these charts, that most workers got miraculously independent and autonomous in the last year.

    Seriously, get this story together about if we’re supposed to be worried about individuals having a freedom to self determination, or society needing a relentless supply of working class to keep the gears turning.

    • Wolf Richter says:


      Where did you get this idiotic idea that we should or shouldn’t “feel sorry” for employers? I certainly didn’t say anything about feeling sorry for employers. This is your emotional projection. This wasn’t about emotion but about data, one more piece of the puzzle to describe this economy. If you cannot handle the data, and confuse it with emotion, you’re in the wrong place.

      • Tom H says:

        There are personal human stories behind this data and a struggle for survival which pits labor against corporations and their ‘inherent greed.’ The views (in comments) above describing labor as incompetent, lazy, entitled, too expensive, especially for recent college graduates might be comical, but they are negative generalizations of a whole swath of workers who will eventually run the selfsame dog and pony show in their eventual turn. I think perhaps not enough attention is being directed toward the emotional frustrations behind the numbers. If a business can’t function as a going concern and pay living wages it should be shut. People are pissed and fed up being squeezed.

        • ishi says:

          what’s the point if the CEO can’t make is 300 to 1 ratio against the average worker? Or pull his golden parachute?

      • Chillbro says:

        Fake news and parts of the comments certainly project that sentiment though, i think that’s what he is referring to.

        • Paul from NC says:

          …neither of which has anything to do with the article he’s responding to.

  22. historicus says:

    Powell will keep rates low to promote employment…
    he says…
    Covid scares
    Child care concerns
    Fed payouts
    and looking for better jobs all contribute to high unemployment numbers…
    What does a low interest rate policy have to do with any of that? What impact? And BTW you have 5% inflation kicking working Americans in the wallet.
    Do your job!!
    BTW, I know you dont have an economic degree, but when I was in school, 5% unemployment was considered FULL EMPLOYMENT…because of people shifting from job to job and other factors.
    Stop coming up with LOUSY excuses to keep rates low and ignore INFLATION.

  23. Paulo says:

    Top job openings in Canada are listed below (2021-2024) Medical is not an option/issue as it is free for us.

    Registered Nurse: predicting 139,700 job openings, medium hourly wage $36
    Truck Driver: predicting 135,900 job openings, median hourly wage $21
    College or Vocational Instructors: 57,100 job openings predicted, median hourly wage: $35
    Business Management Consultant: 49,300 job openings predicted, median hourly wage: $34.62
    Welder: 30,800 job openings predicted, median hourly wage: $35

    Quick estimate is to multiply the median hrly rate by 2,000 for average median yearly income for a full time job in listed occupation. However, these numbers are low in my experience. For example, there are truck drivers and there are truck drivers. Logging, const, and long haulers earn at least $150K per year, as opposed to in-town deliveries, etc. Same with welding. Boilermaker certification earns at least $150K – $200K per year as opposed to production welding.

    I just received a load of logging ‘cull’ off the local dryland sort. I use it for firewood and sort out the occasional saw log. It’s all old growth ends and pieces. The same driver showed up, one of two for this area. He makes big bucks and is home every night. I have never seen turnover in his company, ever…..because they pay decent money, well over $150K per year.

    If you want to retain staff for the long haul, the pay has to be competitive with other companies and the job satisfying to do.

    • otishertz says:

      Breathing welding fumes from molten or boiling metal has adverse heath effects. Check out manganism.

      Great jobs, those welding jobs. Trade your lifespan for a little better than average wage… sure.

      • KGC says:

        My uncle was a pipefitter/welder. He’s 90. Lives in a $1,000,000+ home. Raised two kids (contractor and schoolteacher). Been living off his savings for 30 years.

        Like most trade jobs you get paid if your work is worth it. If it isn’t you chose poorly.

  24. Cobalt Programmer says:

    1. Recently wallstreet journal wrote “A Generation of American Men Give Up on College: ‘I Just Feel Lost’”. I still do not understand why men are not interested in college.

    2. Most of the jobs posted here are part time jobs. So a man has to do two part time jobs while both do not pay enough

    3. Cost of living is the major problem. Apartment in a city cost $1200 minimum. Even with a roommate lot of them cannot pay.

    4. Japan is the future. Men are socially withdrawing from the places in to their own home. Sort of herbivore men.

    5. Marriages and child birth are all time low in US. Only good outcome is divorce is also all times low.

    6. I do not want to say his name. Did any body recently saw comments from “our guy”. He used write meaningless bulletins. I hope he is retired now.

  25. Mendocino Coast says:

    Is BlackRock Hiring ?
    what does Carlos Slim Pay anyway LOL ?
    He is on the Board of directors yes ?

  26. Mike says:

    In my neck of the woods two factors in increasing number of staff quitting are the return to onsite work as they are getting jobs with companies offering fully remote and secondly mandatory vaccination requirement.

  27. David Hall says:

    A Los Angeles Craigslist help wanted ad is looking for a cabinet installation assistant $20/hr.

    The median sales price of a home in Los Angeles was $920,000. That is about 23 years of $40k/yr pretax income.

  28. Xavier Caveat says:

    I miss ‘our guy’ & his command of gibberish and in honor of his passing somewhere else online, can offer this rejoinder:

    1) Up is down sometimes but not always
    2) Revert to the mean is coming, not WB indicator vertical extrapolation, just human behavior
    3) Cash is king. The Fed want a regime change, because they are afraid of deflation, gestures & jesters.
    4) SPX reached it’s first test target, but failed on the rest, failed on 3 out of 4 targets, still 25% is better than nothing.
    5) Yield inversion, can be caused by the bond traders, or gravity with foreign entities, might be a fake signal not dissimilar to a yield sign on a road.
    6) If, in the next 12 months, the unemployment rate will rise > 0.5% + 5.8%, or 6.3%, we might be in the early stages of recession, or maybe not.

    • Kielbasa says:

      Bravo! Letter-perfect. You’re hired!

    • JGO says:

      1) This was a decent effort.
      2) He had more analysis with his comments though.
      3) A Harami might have helped.

    • FluffyGato says:

      I actually enjoyed the OP’s posts.

      XC’s take is spot-on excellent. I hope you do more of these.

  29. Gian says:

    Hats off to the public education system for abandoning the ABC’s in order to push their demented, freakish and mind numbing socialist agenda. Apparently, working fast food and pushing the right point of sale buttons requires they wrestle outside their weight class.

  30. Silverdog says:

    Interesting numbers, with regards to employment I tend to think Covid-19 has caused people to re evaluate employment and the relationship they have to it as well as the American economic system in general. They are not evaluating it in an Academic manner as posters here tend to do , but rather at a primal gut level.

    When you evaluate it in a non academic manner you come to several conclusions:

    1. The game is “rigged” for the “Average Joe” college educated or not.
    2. The game is “rigged” against American males in general via divorce/child support/women/etc.
    3. The “morality” that the culture had with regards to fair work/pay your debts/etc. is gone for the “average Joe” now, you are going to start to see some very interesting behavior because of this.

    There is still a ton of opportunity in the USA but you will have a hard time seizing it by “playing by the rules/using the old playbook”, you have to blaze a new path and adapt. Interesting times ahead.

  31. BrianC - PDX says:

    Bingo! Between 1978 and when I graduated in 1983 I could work in the woods running a saw for 2 1/2 months. I made enough money to pay for 3 quarters at State U. Paying for a full course load and living on campus. The summer after I graduated high school I made $2400 and then freshman year cost me under $1900.

    After I graduated I had enough to buy a used suburban. Bought a season pass and skied Bridger Bowl. Bummed around that spring and summer and then went to work in the fall.

    Good luck doing that now.

    State U – depending on where you are, is going to run 30k to 50k a year. No way is anyone making that in 2 1/2 months…

    • BrianC - PDX says:

      Oh gee whiz. This was supposed to be a reply to a comment by OtisH up thread.

      Guess I messed it up somehow…

  32. Mike R. says:

    I suspect, but can’t prove, that many of the “unemployed” are actually working (jobs/gigs via cash) and likely still collecting unemployment. Even with wage rate lower, equal or better compensation since no withholdings. And of course unemployment helps too, especially the generous Federal piece during COVID.

    As far as job offerings, I suspect, but can’t prove, that many employers want to hire additional employees, but only if they are top notch/perfect fit. If not, they are an anchor and not a sail and the job posting stays open.

    • Michael Gorback says:

      I agree on off-payroll jobs.

      Remember the epidemic of disability claims? Once you’re on SSDI you’re limited as to how much earned income you can make. Most people on SSDI are afraid to report even a little income lest it trigger a review of their disability.

      They work gigs for cash. They might make more if they worked instead of collecting $800/month but they’d lose their Medicare benefits. Maybe one day we’ll have government AI that will figure out if you let people keep the Medicare bennies they’ll get off the $800 income dole and maybe even pay taxes.

  33. MCH says:


    I’m kind of curious about the underlying on data source; as you indicated, these are datasets from the census bureau. But I’m curious to see what kind of businesses were surveyed. You list out the industries nicely, but it’s not obvious if we’re looking at size and scope of the businesses surveyed. My guess is it’s probably a mixture, but would be curious to see the range.

    This also begs the question of the impact being seen here. I am going to guess that for mega corporations like Amazon, Walmart, etc, the shortage of labor is not really an issue. After all, they have the scale to compete to an extent, and they’ll just pull workers from other parts of the economy. What I’m really wondering is how this actually impact lower middle end businesses to small business.

    You can imagine if one owns a restaurant or several of those, it would suddenly be harder to find employees. Same for all of those sub chapter S corps, gas stations, coffee shops, small machine shops, etc. The competition would be quite intensive there, and if they had to compete with the big boys on salary, it might be difficult, never mind the government.

    It would be very interesting to see how this “labor shortage” distorts the economy further in favor of the big guys who already have scale. It would seem like we’re seeing the equivalent of the mouth piece going “NO MORE TOO BIG TO FAIL” while the actions push from Megabanks to Ginormous banks. All of this government and Fed efforts on the economy seem to be the equal of what happened to the financial sector in 2008, except applied to the entire economy.

    • tom15 says:

      This mom & pop business raised rates , reduced hours, would only hire if the right person looked us up. There are very few of us doing this work, and 2 more in my area just retired. We all saw this coming in our industry.

      Outdoor work, get to play with excavation equipment, gps surveying units, drive big carbon spewing rigs….off set by the recycled food products you may find yourself knee deep in.

      Then again who knows amazon may wade in.

  34. georgist says:

    Wow where can I sign to get a boss who thinks many people are stupid? Bet he’s a great boss!

  35. Taxman100 says:

    I work in corporate taxation, and we are looking to add two entry-level/near entry level tax analyst positions. I work in an industry that was devastated by the lock-downs, so they had large lay-offs back in the spring of 2020 in all areas, including accounting and finance, just to keep the lights on.

    At age 55 after being severanced out by a very large corporation this past July 4th weekend (not an American company), it took me five weeks to find and accept this job managing the tax compliance function and developing/rebuilding the staff as a much smaller company.

    In four weeks of looking for hires, we have acquired exactly ZERO resumes of anyone with an accounting degree, and at least an interest in taxation. Granted, the large well-known organizations can vacuum up the college grads who think they will be the Tax Director in ten years, but the response has been surprising.

    Accounting majors are not quite as bad, but I’ve noticed younger people today do not handle work stress or constructive feedback well at all. They normally quit rather quickly, so I’m going to push my new boss to look at older workers being pushed out (hey, just like me).

    • MCH says:

      Cause a) older workers don’t complain as much, they didn’t have nearly as much entitlement in their lives. and b) they are more likely to have some degree of work ethics.

      The problem with any hire is literally, you have no idea how well they’ll work out until you’ve had them in a position for a few months to observe. Sometimes, there isn’t a cultural fit, other times, there is a realization that the quiet voice in the back of your head was right… this guy is a psycho.

    • Wolf Richter says:


      “…look at older workers being pushed out…”

      This has HUGE benefits. All around. Under the condition that these folks keep learning and keep their knowledge and skills up-to-date.

      Try a tag like this (I hope it’s still legal): “Over 50? You’re encouraged to apply” — and see what candidates you get. And then let us know.

      • Taxman100 says:

        Ran that idea past my boss today. He has some other idea up his sleeve, but he said a little too early to comment.

        I’m guessing he knows someone who will come in as a 1099 contractor, or something similar. That is kind of the new norm – about half of the actual tax positions are employees, and the other half are independent contractors.

        I have to admit, I considered requesting a higher hourly rate as an independent contractor vs. a W-2 employee. To be honest, the only real benefit of being an employee today is health insurance (well, and the 401k match, which you just build into your hourly rate).

        There is literally no other real financial incentive to remain a long-term employee with most corporations – it’s not like they want you to stay around much longer than a typical contractor role anyways.

        I saw an article that most remote workers don’t really feel like an employee anyways – they have a near-zero personal relationship with “coworkers”, and the company they work for is just the name on their eft deposit every pay period.

        • Wolf Richter says:


          Health insurance can be a substantial benefit, esp. when you’re over 40 or over 50. Before you switch to 1099 status, get some quotes on health insurance plans. Your 1099 pay should be substantially higher than your W-2 pay to make the math work out. A rule of thumb is 25% to 30%.

  36. Steve Sovring says:

    I submit all these jobs are not real jobs per se. Many of the job listings are simply a byproduct of over a decade low interest rates and unheard of astronomical money printing and stimulus. If the money printing, stimulus and low interest rates were to stop, equilibrium would come and most of these job openings would simply vanish. The FED must pump the same volume of money into the economy just to meet the current expansion. I submit when the down cycle part of this fed fake economy comes we are going to witness the worst job losses imagined. The expansion was never real. All of that fake fed money ultimately ends up with the richest. And so I submit the FED knows exactly what they are doing. Transferring all of the working world’s money to ___________.

  37. CZ says:

    I wonder how much of the labor shortage is due to relocations/dislocations?

    Consider the freight shortage: it’s not b/c of fewer containers; it’s b/c freight flows have changed, and the containers aren’t where the freight is.

    Media cites a net 38,000 people have moved out of San Francisco during the pandemic.

  38. Depth Charge says:

    Half of all people are of below average intelligence, and they are a coffee shop hiring low paid, unskilled labor. I don’t like their odds of avoiding “non-stupid” people, especially in this environment.

  39. drifterprof says:

    There seems to be a continuing flow of comments attempting various explanations in terms of job “listings” or “postings.” The article stated up front that “This data is not based on job ads, but a survey 21,000 nonfarm business establishments and government entities by the Census Bureau.”

    I’m surprised that some readers didn’t read that statement or a couple of Wolf’s posts that repeat the nature of the data.

    I tend to look for underlying explanations too, but sometimes Occam’s razor applies. The simplest of competing theories is often more probable than the more complex: If people have less dire need for money, they will laze out, pursue alternatives, or understandably be more picky about the jobs they would accept.

    There are many ways one could cast blame on the dysfunctional state of American culture, wealth distribution, and employment. For me, I would hope that labor shortages would help weed out the selfish, greedy, mean-spirited power-tripping managers that seemed so common in my years working.

    On the other hand, there’s probably a valid problem as described above in dealing with a generation of entitled, trouble-making, or just plain psycho Americans that are impossible to manage.

  40. Morbaine says:

    Front page on MSN today has an article referencing an analysis by Peter Ganong from University of Chicago claiming that the ‘keepers’ are doing better than the ‘enders’ on job growth, I’m guessing they searched until they found a metric that aligned with the preferred narrative, but would be curious about Wolf’s thoughts on that analysis and it’s assertion.

    • Wolf Richter says:


      Consumer spending might be higher in the keeper states since they’re getting more free money to spend. But that’s not the point of the discussion. The point is whether or not people rejoin the workforce after the extra $300 a week ended.

      The weekly unemployment claims data I use is currently the only data out there to shed light on this in a consistent manner. Over the next few months, the monthly state-by-state jobs report data (which lags woefully behind) will shed light on this as well. Once I have a few months of state-by-state jobs report data to build a chart with, I’ll publish the results.

  41. Sams says:

    “On the other hand, there’s probably a valid problem as described above in dealing with a generation of entitled, trouble-making, or just plain psycho Americans that are impossible to manage.”

    Could be that Americans start to behave as rational capitalist at the personal level and all levels. Maximize profit by all means in all situations. That is capitalism and it is as a personality it is psychopathic.

    Wave goodbye to society.

    • Beardawg says:

      drifterprof & Sams

      You have hit on something here. When I retired (got fired) from my last career job in 2015, I took a Golf Ranger position for minimum wage (plus free golf of course). The golf resort was owned/operated by a really large hotel conglomerate that starts with Marr and ends with “T.” Had orientation, HR sensitivity training etc. Was efficient at my job, learned super fast – my Supv NEVER got any complaints.

      10 months in, the Supv (Director of Golf) pulled me in and showed me a GPS report which showed I did not drive my golf cart around enough to fulfill my normal duties. Had to sign off on some report akin to a “1st warning.” I smiled, signed it, said everything was fine, then went home and issued my resignation letter – but offered my services 1099-style through my LLC on an “as needed / overflow” basis (e.g. big golf tournaments etc). I knew the offer as an LLC worker would be thrown in the trash, but it felt good to let them know I did not need their stinking corporate oversight.

      I was retired and obviously did not need that job. My concern for the younger brash workforce is that they don’t have a retirement background. Until age 25 or 26 (medically proven), they are not looking past the next few weeks or maybe a month or 2. Learning political / social / collaboration skills has value. If you keep quitting until you find your sanctuary, you may be running in circles. However, if enough of them go that route, I suppose they can cry out enough to have that new paradigm supported or rewarded via better unemployment subsidies or UBI or whatever.

  42. Al Jones says:

    This could be part of the reason.

    We have all known for years the the boomer generation was approaching retirement. Did the circumstances of the last 18 months pull those dates forward. And, how many skilled people were lost?

  43. Silverdog says:

    “Could be that Americans start to behave as rational capitalist at the personal level and all levels. Maximize profit by all means in all situations. That is capitalism and it is as a personality it is psychopathic.

    Wave goodbye to society.”

    I think there is some of this at play, the last “moral” highground which was present in the USA was around economic/money/capitalism/etc even that is now falling apart.

  44. Depth Charge says:

    You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Biden is set to announce mandatory vaccinations for all FED workers and contractors, and through the labor dept. will try to force companies with over 100 employees to mandate vaccines. You are about to witness one of the largest job loss events in history. Shockingly stupid and tyrannical.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Nah. Wishful thinking of hardcore anti-vaxxers. A huge number of eligible adults are vaccinated. They like being surrounded by vaccinated colleagues. Those are good jobs, and it’s a lot easier to get a free jab than finding a new job. And that’s going to motivate the fence sitters to get their jabs, be safe, and go on.

      And those that still refuse, well, there are plenty of open positions out there, as we have seen in the charts above. They’ll just have to work for a smaller company that allows the unvaccinated to work there.

      I really don’t get this. The unvaccinated are now dying in fairly large numbers, at a rate of about 1,000 a day in the US alone. That’s 3 Boeings full of unvaccinated people crashing every day, 7 days a week.

      This nonsense is just so exasperating. And I’m so tired of it. The internet is spreading the worst garbage, and people are believing it — smart people like you — and they’re dying at a rate of 1,000 per day, for their believes. It’s tragic because it’s so unnecessary.

      • Depth Charge says:

        “More than 100 staff members at Houston Methodist Hospital who were fired for refusing to get vaccinated for COVID-19 appealed a judge’s ruling that sided with the hospital’s right to terminate their employment.

        “We are going to most likely go all the way up to the Supreme Court,” Jennifer Bridges, a registered nurse and the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit filed by 117 former employees of the hospital, told Yahoo News.”

        Bridges is one of 153 workers who were fired or resigned from Houston Methodist last Monday…”

        That’s just one hospital, Wolf. There are thousands upon thousands of businesses just like this. Let’s watch and see what happens.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Houston metro has a population of 7 million people, and hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers, and you make a big deal out of 100 morons who were fired. That’s how you delude yourself.

          For your amusement, I just looked it up: Houston metro has 234,000 unemployed, according to the BLS. Those 100 fired hospital workers just disappeared into that mass.

        • Michael Gorback says:

          Yeah. Watch and see the amicus briefs filed by Google, Goldman Sachs, Blackrock, CVS, Chevron, Facebook,
          WaPo, Disney, Walgreens, Cisco, Anthem, Cardinal Health, Johnson & Johnson and other giant companies that require either vaccination or regular testing.

        • Depth Charge says:

          It was 153, Wolf, not 100. You’re lowballing. And that’s just a single company. I could post thousands of articles like this. Why are you downplaying it, and insulting me in the process? Delude myself? Seems you’re getting a bit wadded up rather than just accepting facts.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Depth Charge,

          The “100” was your number. I just repeated it. The thing I didn’t repeat was “more than.” I don’t care anymore. I’m exasperated by this nonsense.

        • Swamp Creature says:

          What was missing was a mention of natural immunity. They should not be included in the same population sample as the unvaccinated. The Cleveland Clinic has stated that these people have less risk of contracting the Covid-19 than the vaccinated. So why all the urgency to get them vaccinated?? It seems like proof of Covid-19 anitbidies should be enough to grand a waver of the c=vaccine mandate.

      • Michael Gorback says:

        Part of the problem is that as a professional talking head if you don’t say what your listeners tuned in to hear you’re toast.

        So if you’re a Rush Limbaugh clone you have to say Rush Limbaugh things. Even if you think vaccination is a good idea the minute you say that publicly your career is over.

        The audience tunes in to have their beliefs confirmed. They don’t lead the audience, the audience leads them. It’s a big echo chamber of confirmation bias.

        If Rachel Maddow said she agreed with the Texas abortion law she’d be escorted from the building.

        This is why the anti-vaxxers are usually right wing. The talk show host is supposed to take a stand against the government, which means fighting “mandatory anything”. It also entails introducing questionable experts and citing absurd data plus advocating alternatives like Ivermectin, Vitamin D, and zinc.
        The Medical-pharmaceutical-government-hospital complex doesn’t want people to know how easy it really is to fight covid because they’d lose control.

        There’s no agenda other than to claim there’s an agenda led by George Soros, the Rosicrucians, and the Illuminati.

        I’m no fan of government or corporate influence, but as Freud said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

      • Swamp Creature says:

        I can see companies with a little over 100 employees, firing enough of them to get under the 100 employee threshold. Or better yet, contracting out their jobs, or sending them to 3rd world countries faster than lightning. Great way to increase employment. These people are morons.

  45. DorisJ says:

    I work from home and have 2 full time customer support jobs. It is not hard, just learn the art of putting customers on hold. I may go for another job because they are so easy to get now, and I am getting really good.

  46. Kaleberg says:

    Am I the only one here who thinks the employer’s are over-reporting their hiring plans? It’s cheap and easy to post a job listing.

    If you are running a crappy shop, paying a pittance, abusing your employees and burning them out, odds are you have high turnover. There are LOTS of businesses like this. They spent the last few decades assuming that employees are 100% fungible and trivial to replace. A lot of companies have business models that assume every employee is replaced more than once a year. They are ALWAYS hiring, and they’re hiring lots of people. They just aren’t good at employing people or people would stay longer.

    I agree with all those WTFs, but I think they are an artifact of the trash business model common in our economy. The demand for ever increasing profit to be filtered up to the top means a continuous process of taking from those at the bottom. As long as employees are easy to replace, it’s easy to profit. Put a kink in that pipeline and you’d expect a huge number of job listings but slow uptake of workers.

    We saw this after the last recession too. There were bazillions of job listings but slow hiring. There was also a lot of rich boy whining then too.

    • Wolf Richter says:


      “…over-reporting their hiring plans? It’s cheap and easy to post a job listing.”

      PLEASE READ THE ARTICLE. At least read the 3rd paragraph which states:

      “This data is not based on job ads, but a survey 21,000 nonfarm business establishments and government entities by the Census Bureau, similar to the monthly jobs report:”

  47. Michael Gorback says:

    I think it would be interesting to see employment stratified by age with time on the x-axis to see if the older folks are leaving or the younger ones aren’t entering.

  48. Swamp Creature says:

    When is California going to stop sending all their dirty smoke filled air here to the east coast? We had nice blue skies once. Now we got haze and brown skies imported in the jet stream from the West coast. Why don’t they clean up their forests and get rid of the underbrush. That would be a worthwhile jobs program. Nope, the environmentalists won’t let that happen. I say, take some of these loafers who have been sitting home collecting extended UE benefits and put them to work.

  49. Jim says:

    Great article. This is a fascinating subject to me.

    To all those who dispute these numbers for this or that reason, every where I go, I see more help wanted signs than I have ever seen in my life and business owner are complaining more about not being able to find help more than I ever remember. (I am 59.) My eyes and ears tell me this is true.

    A lot of negative and positive in this. This looks bad for the overall economy. I hope this labor shortage does not tank it, particularly through the supply chain problems. But for the individual willing to work it might be just the time to enter the work force or seek a new career. And for somebody willing to work overtime, I bet there is plenty available.

    In some ways, I don’t think it has ever been a better time to be a worker. I wish it had been this good when I entered the labor force as a teenager.

    As the article alludes to, this situation has multiple causes including lazy people but not just limited to that.

    A question to Mr. Richter and others.

    Do you remember seeing labor shortage predictions for our time frame about 20 or maybe 30 years ago? I seem to remember reading about stuff like this because of predicted demographic shifts but I don’t remember for sure. Does anyone else have that same memory?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      I’ve never even heard of a “labor shortage” in my life until this phenomenon occurred. I’ve heard of tight labor markets, sure, but not a labor shortage. What is going on now is a very unique phenomenon.

Comments are closed.