Signs Offer Cautious Optimism About Labor Market

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Are Americans going back to work? According to some economic indicators, there is reason for optimism. 

And we’ll take it. It’s no secret the past year and a half left a giant vacancy in the employment sector across the US. Signs on doorways to commonly patronized establishments randomly stood shut with messages of “closed due to insufficient staffing today.” Regular operating hours were wishful thinking, and planning became unpredictable and impractical.

Now a new report says unemployment claims have fallen each consecutive week for the past month. One business survey, HIS Markit’s purchasing managers’ index, shows the highest recovery is happening for employers in the service sector, which has been adding workers at the quickest rate since June.

With COVID cases falling, some are more comfortable with the prospect of returning to the workplace. Consumer confidence indicators are also showing positive trends after a months-long drought. And workers are feeling more optimistic about their own job prospects than they have since the year 2000. 

Understandably so. Where could you go during the past several months without seeing “help wanted” signs or passing tables set up in entryways urging people to “apply now?” Nevertheless, people like Jerry Akers, who owns 36 hair salons in Iowa and Nebraska, are celebrating. Down 70 positions, he wasn’t able to add a single person to his workforce for six months. In the past month he added ten at once. A long way to go? Maybe so – but right now he’s rejoicing over the upward trend.

Consumer desire to travel has also hit its highest mark since before the pandemic, which is good news for all the supporting businesses involved in the travel industry. Data measured by Open Table indicates travel activity is nearly back to pre-pandemic levels.

While he admits it could be a long haul, Akers said, “We are seeing some forward momentum. There seems to be a little more interest for people to start getting back to normal.” We hope Akers’ observations are spot on. In the meantime, continue reading here to learn more about the potential labor force recovery:

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