While we continue to see jobs added to the workforce (266,000 in April and nearly 1 million in March), the percentage of labor force participants has remained relatively unchanged. The unemployment rate in April 2021 was at 6.1 percent, 0.1 percent points higher than in March 2021. Additionally, the number of people not in the labor force actively looking for a job was 6.6 million, 0.2 million lower than last month’s 6.8 million.
With job availability on the rise, but the unemployment rate remaining steady, it is evident that people are reluctant to jump back into the labor force.
In April, 2.8 million people were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic. This measure is down from the 3.7 million the month before. If the number of people prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic is down, why are there less people looking for work?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics believes this is due to a trend of “discouraged workers”. Discouraged workers are a subset of people marginally attached to the labor force who believed that no jobs were available for them. This accounts for 565,000 people of the 1.9 million persons marginally attached to the workforce in April of 2021.
With more jobs being added to the workforce each month (over 1 million jobs added since January) while the volume of active job seekers remains low, there has been a significant increase in job board competition. Companies seem to be preparing their labor force for post-pandemic economic growth, as 2 million less people are out of work due to employer closures related to the pandemic. So with job opportunities on the rise, job board competition increasing, and a minimal workforce available, where are these companies recruiting their new staff members? In April of 2021 we saw a decline of 111,000 jobs in the Temporary Help Services – an industry that has held on to people who are ready and willing to work throughout the pandemic. We can expect that many companies are transitioning the temporary help they’ve received from staffing agencies into full-time hires to fill their gaps.
As pandemic related restrictions ease up, less and less people in the labor force are working from home. In April, 18.3 percent of employed people teleworked due to the pandemic. This is down from last month’s 21.0 percent of employed people.
The average workweek for employed persons also saw a slight increase by 0.1 hour to 35.0 hours in April as compared to March. The average hourly earnings for people in the workforce also increased by 21 cents to $30.17 following a decline last month of 4 cents.
While the employment and temporary help services saw a decline in April as compared to the previous month’s gains, some industries saw notable changes.
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Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021b, May 7). The Employment Situation - April 2021 [Press release]. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf