Key U.S. Industries Struggle with Labor Market Churn Ahead of Holiday Season

October 15, 2021

A record-high quit rate is challenging supply chains and industries struggling to recover from the COVID shutdowns, particularly retail trade and the accommodation and food service industries.

There are 10.4 million job openings, enough for every unemployed American and half of the 5.7 million Americans who are not in the labor force but say they want a job.  Nearly every industry has more job openings than there are unemployed in those industries, suggesting a serious skills mismatching problem.

Leisure and hospitality and education and health services industries remain the hardest hit from COVID in terms of jobs lost.  Both industries are struggling to replace those employees.  In addition, despite record high hiring rates, both industries have a record number of job openings, partly because they also have record high quit rates.  Transportation and warehousing and retail trade are also struggling with similar trends.

Skills and geographic mismatch are partly to blame, along with school/day care issues and the baby boom retirement.

The short-term outlook is not encouraging as it will take more than vaccine mandates to get the 5.7 million Americans who are not in the labor force but say they want a job matched to the job openings that employers have.  Employers are now competing with fairly generous government benefits (excluding unemployment benefits) and changes in how Americans value time more than money despite the financial hardships resulting from the global pandemic.