May’s jobs report shows signs of labor-market acceleration, but it’s also clear that people are still sitting on the sidelines. The United States added 559,000 jobs in May, below the 671,000 forecast. This follows the disastrous April jobs report that added 266,000 jobs after economists predicted 1 million. Even with a record of more than 8.12 million open jobs, unemployment remains at 5.8%.
The size of the labor force has declined, and it’s clear we still have a labor shortage. Is it possible some people just don’t want to go back to work? After all, millions are making more money collecting an extra $300 each week in federally enhanced unemployment benefits. Others point to childcare challenges and fears of the virus for not returning to their jobs, despite schools and daycares reopening and about 50% of U.S. adults being at least halfway vaccinated.
Meanwhile, nearly half of millennials and Gen Z workers say they will consider quitting if they have to return to their office simply because they prefer the flex hours. This should concern us. Fifty-four percent say they would become internet influencers given the opportunity.
Megan Rose is the CEO of Better Together, a nonprofit dedicated to keeping children out of foster care by strengthening families through work and relational support. She’s also a 2020-21 Civil Society Fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
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