If the unemployment rate is back to what it was pre-pandemic, why are there still so many job openings?

Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 5:29 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - The federal pandemic unemployment Cares Act expired on Sept. 4. Many wonder if more people will start looking for work.

It is too soon to assess the data to know if the unemployment rate is decreasing as a result, but many businesses are struggling to hire employees.

“If you drive around town anywhere in Central Wisconsin, you see the help wanted signs,” said Todd Kuckkahn, the executive director of the Portage County Business Council.

It’s not just Wisconsin with this problem. The U.S. reached a historic high of 10.9 million job openings in July, according to a survey from the department of labor. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found the unemployment in Wisconsin was 3.9% in June. That number is comparable to what it was before the pandemic.

If the unemployment rate is relatively low, then why are there still so many jobs?

“It’s an aging workforce, so as baby boomers start to retire and have been retiring for a while now and that’s been accelerated by the pandemic there just aren’t enough young workers coming up behind them to fill those vacancies,” said Brain Kalish, business services director for the North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board.

Another large contributor to the high unemployment rate could be childcare. Many parents choose to stay home to take care of their children because of the high cost or lack of available child care.

On the bright side, for those looking for a job, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a good fit. Kalish said job seekers are in the driver’s seat.

“Employers are more willing to hire people without experience or people who might just have an interest in that industry or that field,” said Kalish.

Kuckkahn said that was especially true for those who attended the Portage County Business Council Job Fair. He estimated about 200 people.

“I know that some businesses will actually offer jobs on the spot. It has gotten to that point where if people have a temperature and can smile and shake your hand and have a resume, they’ll be hiring for jobs,” said Kuckkahn.

They had 55 eager vendors this year which is 20 more than last year due to so many businesses being so desperate for help.

Kuckkahn’s advice for those ready to rejoin the workforce is not to be afraid to reach out.

“If you sit in your apartment and stare at the TV all day nothing’s gonna happen. You have to be the one to reach out because there is plenty of opportunities out there,” said Kuckkahn.

Now might be the best time to explore a career that one may not even be qualified for. Kuckkahn and Kalish said that many businesses are willing to provide the necessary training that is needed.

If you need help searching for a job contact the Portage County Business Council. The North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board would also be more than happy to help. They can be reached on their Facebook page.

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