Businesses are struggling to hire workers across the country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, constraining an economy that’s still recovering from the health crisis.
But the worst U.S. labor shortage since at least the 1990s is far more dire in some states than others.
Employers in Massachusetts, West Virginia and Maryland are having the toughest time finding workers while those in Nevada, Wyoming and Hawaii are facing the fewest obstacles, according to a Moody’s Analytics study of Labor Department figures released for the first time last month. Friday’s jobs report will showcase the latest employment data nationally.
Here’s a look, in order, at the five states with the most severe worker shortages in September and the five with the least severe deficits, based on their openings-to-hires gaps:
5 states with worst worker shortages
Job openings rate: 8.1%
Hires rate: 4.1%
Gap: 4 percentage points
The state has recovered substantially from the pandemic and most students have returned to its many colleges. That’s fueling more demand for goods and services and creating more job openings but most of those students aren’t part of the workforce, Kamins notes. That labor pool is still diminished as residents care for kids or stay cautious about going back to work because of COVID-19.
In Auburn, Atlas Distribution, a wholesaler of beer and beverages with 100 to 200 employees, has about a dozen openings – for warehouse workers, merchandising specialists, delivery drivers and helpers, says company Comptroller Jackie Faron. If Atlas schedules five interviews, perhaps half will show up, Faron says.
In Weymouth, George Washington Toma TV and Appliance has a similar number of openings but just 50 employees, so it’s having a harder time keeping pace with demand. The store, in turn, closes earlier during the week and no longer opens at all on Sunday, says CEO George Toma.
“We didn’t really have a slow season,” Toma says, adding that November was off the charts. “It’s not even Black Friday anymore, it’s Black November.”
Job openings rate: 8%
Hires rate: 4.6%
Gap: 3.4 percentage points
West Virginia is graced by a stunning natural landscape and vibrant tourism industry that fuels customer demand and job openings. But it was hit with the nation’s largest population decline from 2010 to 2020, losing 3.2% of its residents amid the coal industry’s decline and opioid overdose epidemic. That means there are fewer potential workers, Kamins says.
Compounding the labor shortage is the state’s status as a retirement haven, with about a fifth of the population over 65, putting more pressure on health and other services. Yet most of those older residents aren’t part of the workforce, Kamins says.
Job openings rate: 7.3%
Hires rate: 3.9%
Gap: 3.4 percentage points
Southern Maryland is a bedroom community for Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia, and many of those district and Virginia employees have been working from home in Maryland, Kamins says. That stokes demand for services during the day without supplying a similar boost to a workforce still suffering from COVID-19-related impediments.
Jamison Door Co. in Hagerstown, could use about 15 workers, says company Chairman John Williams. “Our business is really, really good,” he said of the firm, which makes doors for the cold storage industry. Its products are in demand, he says, because the pandemic has changed the way people ship, order, and buy food.
But he adds, “It’s difficult just to attract people to talk.”
The company has raised pay, and the lowest-wage job now earns more than $20 per hour, To help allay fears of the virus, Jamison even has brought in mobile units to provide vaccinations or booster shots to workers who want them.
“We’ve tried every way we know how” to recruit workers, Williams said. “Some people will actually accept a job, work for a week and be gone…The work ethic of old seems to be not as strong.”
Job openings rate: 7.6%
Hires rate: 4.3%
Gap: 3.3 percentage points
The state, which lost residents from 2000 to 2010 as the auto industry was pummeled by foreign competition, had among the slowest growing populations over the past 10 years. The industry’s chip shortage also has dampened job openings during the pandemic, but not enough to offset the slow-growing labor force, Kamins says.
Job openings rate: 6.2%
Hires rate: 3.1%
Gap: 3.1 percentage points
Demand has held up better than nearby Chicago while the state has endured among the sharpest slowdowns in population growth last year, Kamins says.
Article by Paul Davidson, USA TODAY