WASHINGTON—Many unemployed Americans are not eager to rejoin the workforce, which does not bode well for the current labor shortage. Fifty-three percent of Americans who became unemployed during the pandemic said they were only somewhat active or not very active at all in looking for work, according to a new poll by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, 56% said they continue to be unemployed for more than six months before it becomes essential to return to full-time work. Eleven percent said it will be more than a year before it is necessary to return to work, and 15% said it will never be essential.
The U.S. economy added back fewer jobs than expected in November. Nonfarm payrolls increased by just 210,000 for the month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Every day, we see more evidence of a worsening worker shortage,” said U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne P. Clark. “With businesses across the country and in every industry struggling to find workers, it is deeply concerning that 35% of the unemployed say they are not very active in looking for work—or not looking at all. Policymakers at every level of government must act with urgency to get people back to work and help accelerate the economic recovery.”
The Chamber found that more than one in 10 (13%) have left multiple jobs during the pandemic. Among those who have held multiple jobs since April 2020, 57% held their most recent position for three months or less. Nearly a third (32%) of unemployed workers said they would prefer to work in a different industry for their next job.
The poll showed that people are using a combination of income sources, including income from members of their household, stimulus checks, savings and unemployment benefits. One-third of the formerly employed disagree with the statement that “it is essential to return to a full-time job as soon as possible.”
Additional analysis by the U.S. Chamber found that quit rates were highest in accommodation and foodservice (6.6%); and in arts, entertainment and recreation services (5.7%). States with the largest drop in labor force participation rates since the start of the pandemic were Vermont (-4.7 percentage points), Nevada (-3.8) and Connecticut (-3.4).
Convenience retailers are increasing their minimum wages to stay competitive. Rutter’s is raising its starting wage to $16 an hour, and Sheetz also raised its starting pay this year. Some 7-Eleven locations are currently offering $500 new hire bonuses, and select GPM Investments c-stores are offering $2,500 sign-on bonuses. Many other retailers offered hiring bonuses during the summer. In 2020, the average full-time associate starting wage at a convenience store was $11.89 an hour, which was up 40.5% in the past 10 years, according to the NACS State of the Industry Compensation Report® of 2020 Data.
Other retailers also pay above the minimum wage to attract talent in a tight labor market. Walmart pays on average $16.40 in the U.S. Target’s minimum wage is $15 an hour, and it is paying its team members an extra $2 an hour if they work on a Saturday or Sunday between Nov. 20 and Dec. 19, as well as Friday, Dec. 24 and Sunday, Dec. 26. Starbucks also announced it will raise wages at least twice next year, which would bring its starting pay to $15 an hour by next summer and its average pay to $17.
Here’s how you can attract Gen Z’s to your company, how to use social media to hire and a recent NACS webinar explored how retailers can attract and hire team members today and in the future.