OPINION: The Unemployment Problem Of This Generation

Now Hiring, Now Hiring Sign, Employment, Work, Career, Help Wanted Sign, Help Wanted, Letterboard, Letter Board - stock photo Now Hiring, Now Hiring Sign, Employment, Work, Career, Help Wanted Sign, Help Wanted, Job Growth, Occupations, Jobs, Job Growth, Occupations, Letterboard, Letter Board. Jena Ardell via Getty Images
Jena Ardell via Getty Images

As COVID lockdowns begin to wane and job openings return, workers aren’t returning to the workforce at the rate many had expected, even as restaurants and bars are ready for more customers and longer hours.

The Wall Street Journal discussed the lack of people returning to the workforce despite unemployment rates and job openings.

“More than nine million Americans said in May that they wanted jobs and couldn’t find them. Companies said they had more than nine million jobs open that weren’t filled, a record high,” the outlet reported. 

The Journal noted:

Many workers moved during the pandemic and aren’t where jobs are available; many have changed their preferences, for instance pursuing remote work, having discovered the benefits of life with no commute; the economy itself shifted, leading to jobs in industries such as warehousing that aren’t in places where workers live or suit the skills they have; extended unemployment benefits and relief checks, meantime, are giving workers time to be choosy in their search for the next job.

Workers have also looked into other industries and are seeking a potential shift in career. The Journal added, “A recent ZipRecruiter survey found 70% of job seekers who last worked in the leisure and hospitality industry say they are now looking for work in a different industry. In addition, 55% of job applicants want remote jobs.”

“An April survey of U.S. workers who lost jobs in the pandemic, conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, found that 30.9% didn’t want to return to their old jobs, up from 19.8% last July,” it went on.

Economic experts have a word for what is causing the job market to slow down: “mismatch,” a detachment between the people who are looking for jobs and the positions that are available. 

“Policy makers should be cognizant of a range of supply factors that may currently be weighing on employment,” Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan said in a research report on mismatch recently. “These factors may not be particularly susceptible to monetary policy.” 

This labor shortage comes at a time when the minimum wage debate is a hot topic, with many politicians calling for an increase to $15 an hour. One of the down sides to this debate, though, is that there might be a lesser appreciation for minimum wage jobs in America, which are professions that are often meant to be places where people start out in life.

The economic situation coming out of the pandemic might seem like a good thing in some ways. It isn’t necessarily bad for people to realize that they should and can spend more time with their loved ones while working remotely, or to decide that there might be a job out there that they are better suited for. There is also an unfortunate side effect, however, of people avoiding entry level jobs altogether, opting instead to remain on government unemployment assistance.

Some have pointed to the government payments from COVID-19 relief packages coming out of Washington, D.C. as a main reason for people not wanting to return to work right away. If someone is getting paid more money to stay home, it might serve them better than going out into the marketplace to find a job that takes them away from their family and ultimately pays less than they were receiving from the government. 

Regardless of when the economy returns to normal, there might be a lasting problem that comes out of this time. The cultural lesson that our generation is learning — the avoidance of hard work due to government handouts — might be an additional layer of damage on top of all the struggles that the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have brought. It’s a hard lesson to unlearn: that the government can (and, according to some, should) provide people with the resources and fulfillment that they need in order to have a successful and happy life. 

The government should provide some basic functions, and it should ultimately allow people to pursue their dreams and goals without serious obstacles. The problem, however, gets more serious when people believe that this is how it should always be.

It teaches a generation to rely on the government, which is a difficult lesson to unlearn.

The pandemic taught that the government has the ability to swoop in and save people from things that might harm them. While this might be true on a basic level, it isn’t something that Americans should lean on when it comes to everyday, normal, post-pandemic life.

It’s important to reassess one’s life if it isn’t going in the right direction, but it’s also vital that we remember to stress the importance of hard work and working one’s way up in the world. The pandemic might have taught people that they weren’t happy with the job they had or with their life’s trajectory, but it’s just as important to remember that starting out somewhere in life where a person might not necessarily want to stay is not a failure. It means that they have somewhere to go from where they are.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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