While the national unemployment rate is still improving, it is decreasing at a much slower rate than we have seen for most of the year.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released its jobs report for August showing 235,000 jobs were added that month, a number only half of the 586,000 jobs added, on average, each month this year.
“We are clearly still in a pandemic. And what happened between July and August is the caseloads increased fivefold,” said Elise Gould, a senior economist with the Economic Policy Institute. “I think the undershooting or overshooting could be a blip in what we’ve seen as pretty steady job growth. I think what we really want to know is what is the real situation on the ground, what are people really experiencing.”
Service workers can give us insight into that experience as the shortages that have plagued the industry for much of the summer have only continued.
“I’m the last remaining staff member here at Oskar Blues from the very beginning,” said Rylee Caldwell, brand ambassador for Oskar Blues Grill and Brew in Downtown Denver. “The guys that we have are working so incredibly hard but it’s just a colossal task, and it very much feels like we’re constantly pushing the rock uphill and then the next day brings a whole new set of challenges and the rock’s back at the bottom of the hill and we have to start all over.”
Caldwell says they have not only had a shortage of applicants but if someone does apply, they might not show up for their interview. Since May, some people have said they prefer making a similar living wage to many in the service industry while remaining on unemployment.
“I don’t think we’re alone in facing some challenges nobody expected,” said Caldwell. “You know, our distributors are having a hard time hiring people. I know that our distributors are having a hard time finding truck drivers, which means that we can’t always get our deliveries in, which, unfortunately, we have to pass that disappointment down to the customers.”
Currently, the national unemployment rate is at 5.2%, still higher than the 3.5% it was prior to the pandemic, but lower than the 5.4% it was in July.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is expected to release September’s job report on October 8.
Because of the seasonality of many industries, experts say they will be keeping a close eye on the public sector, mainly schools, to get an idea of what we can expect for the coming months.