U.S. Chamber Debuts Workforce Initiative

02.18.2022
Workforce

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched the America Works initiative to mobilize the public and private sectors to develop and implement solutions to the national labor shortage crisis.

Through December 2021, there were 10.9 million job openings across the country—a 62% increase over the previous December—and 6.3 million unemployed people.

In other words, even if every unemployed American found a job, there would still be 4.3 million unfilled positions.

US labor force shortage by industry

The country’s labor force—the number of employed workers plus those actively looking for work—declined by 896,000 people (0.5%) from February 2020, the advent of the pandemic, through December 2021.

In Connecticut, the situation is even more acute, with the state’s labor force down 92,000 people (-5%) during that time.

Connecticut’s labor force losses represent over 10% of the total U.S. decline, while the state has 110,000 job openings—a 12-month increase of 64%—and 105,200 unemployed residents.

The U.S. Chamber says every state has more job openings today than before the pandemic, with the manufacturing, leisure and hospitality, financial activities, wholesale and retail trade, and professional services sectors the most impacted.

National Crisis

“We can’t get inflation under control, unclog our supply chains, or fully grow our economy unless we fill these open jobs,” said chamber president and CEO Suzanne Clark.

“Addressing the worker shortage crisis needs to be a top priority for the Administration and Congress.”

In December, the chamber released the results of a survey showing less than half of who lost their jobs during the pandemic and remain unemployed are actively and consistently looking for work.

Less than half of those who lost their jobs during the pandemic and remain unemployed are looking for work.

One in five reported that they are not looking for work at all and 56% believed they can navigate another six months before needing to find a job.

Of those not actively looking for work, 29% were concerned about COVID-19, 28% prioritized their health, 26% said their industry still suffers from the pandemic and there are not enough jobs available, and 24% needed to care for others.  

Women were especially likely to say that staying home to care for others was a barrier to rejoining the workforce—32%, compared to 16% of men.

Survey respondents reported using a combination of income sources from other household members (45%), pandemic stimulus payments (48%), savings (47%), and unemployment benefits (36%) to survive.

‘Act with Urgency’

“It is deeply concerning that 35% of the unemployed say they are not very active in looking for work—or not looking at all,” Clark said.

“Policymakers at every level of government must act with urgency to get people back to work and help accelerate the economic recovery.”

Clark said many of the factors driving the labor shortage predate the pandemic.

“We cannot simply assume that people will return to the workforce.”

U.S. Chamber CEO Suzanne Clark

“We cannot simply assume that people will return to the workforce,” she said Clark.

“Our continued recovery and future prosperity requires that policymakers focus on how we expand the labor force, including through addressing barriers to employment, rightsizing and targeting government benefits, and attracting more qualified workers by doubling the cap on employment-based visas.”

A 2021 CBIA survey found that 80% of employers struggled to find and retain employees, with more than a third describing the labor shortage as the greatest threat to growth.

Programs

The chamber’s America Works initiative features a number of programs targeting the labor shortage, including

  • T3 Innovation Network: Creates a single education and employment record to communicate experience with an employer, expediting job searches by connecting qualified individuals with appropriate positions.
  • Talent Pipeline Management: Partners employers, educators, and training providers to address the skills gap by better aligning the classroom with business needs.
  • Talent Finance: Provides employers with tools to finance talent, manage risk in the labor market, and constantly refine employees skills.
  • Hiring Our Heroes: Connects service members, military spouses, and veterans with employers to create economic opportunity and a strong and diversified workforce.
  • Second Chance Hiring: Examines the benefits for hiring formerly incarcerated individuals, identifies barriers to entry for those with criminal convictions, highlights programs and organizations working to break down those barriers, and discusses developments concerning state and federal legislation supporting second and fair chance hiring
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