JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon suggested Thursday that companies are having trouble hiring in part because some Americans don’t feel like working right now. He’s one of several corporate execs – including execs at jobs site Indeed, Bank of America and Best Buy – who are concerned about lack of interest in jobs.
But the reasons cited vary and hardly form a consensus.
Concerns about jobs going unfilled came Thursday as weekly claims for jobless benefits fell to 406,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. It was a better number than economists had predicted and a new pandemic-era low. Before Covid, weekly benefit claims were around the 200,000 mark.
Jobless claims are at a Covid-era low, and people are increasingly looking for work as various states prepare to cut back their enhanced pandemic unemployment benefits.
This might look like a slam dunk for critics of those payments — but experts say the connection isn’t as straightforward as it might seem.
The banker’s view
Asked about the record high 8.1 million job openings recorded in March, Dimon said there are many causes, including challenges with reopening schools and the enhanced unemployment benefits enacted during the pandemic.
“People actually have a lot of money,” the JPMorgan CEO said at a House Financial Services Committee hearing aimed at holding the megabanks accountable, “and they don’t particularly feel like going back to work.”
Dimon, who made $31.5 million in total compensation last year, did not elaborate.
Some industries, including restaurants and factories, have reported hiring struggles in recent months.
Economists have cited three main causes: lingering health concerns, a lack of childcare and the $300 boost to federal unemployment benefits that could make it harder to fill lower-wage positions. Many GOP-led states have recently decided to stop paying those enhanced unemployment benefits.
Honeywell, the world’s largest industrial company by market value, is having trouble hiring despite boosting wages. “We have far more openings than I’d like, frankly,” CEO Darius Adamczyk told CNN Business last week.
During the hearing, which included testimony from the leaders of the six largest US banks, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan called the worker shortage a “serious concern.”
Dimon also reiterated his optimism about the economic recovery and the jobs market.
“Rest assured, I think we are going to see a completely booming economy and a lot of people going back to work,” he said. “Hopefully it will continue for quite a while.”
The jobs exec’s view
“We still don’t know how much of an effect the unemployment insurance benefits are having on the labor supply and people’s eagerness to work,” Jed Kolko, chief economist at hiring firm Indeed, told CNN Business.
JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon said during a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee Thursday that there are many reasons some unemployed people may feel hesitant from going back to work, including that “people actually have a lot of money and they don’t particularly feel like going back to work.”
According to Kolko’s research, job search activity grew in May in states that announced they would end pandemic benefits early, ahead of the program’s official September end date.
Data from Indeed show that a state’s share of national clicks on job postings was nearly 5% higher on the day of that announcement, but the increase vanished only a few days later. If the effect is that short-lived, it’s unlikely to be because of how much money the jobless receive in benefits.
In fact, Kolko said, there are many — mostly temporary — factors at play as the recovery comes along.
Some people choose to stay home due to continued health concerns. That’s especially relevant for workers in jobs that require face-to-face contact. Child care worries are another as some schools and day cares aren’t yet operating at their pre-pandemic capacity.
And some unemployed people still expect to be called back to their old jobs, Kolko said.
“People are optimistic about where the economy is going,” he added, and that might mean that some “have more confidence to wait and see what their options might be.”
The Best Buy view
Best Buy CEO Corie Barry told CNN Business’ Nathaniel Meyersohn during a media call discussing the company’s earnings Thursday that even as sales are ramping up, Best Buy is seeing a dip in job applications. But she did note the company does still receive more applications than it has open positions, Barry said.
There are four major reasons for this, she added.
The first is the ongoing struggle of parents dealing with children at home. “There is a real lack of childcare that still exists,” Barry said.
While the economy is in the process of fully reopening, some schools and day care centers don’t yet operate as they did pre-pandemic — so some working parents are still being forced to balance their child care responsibilities with their jobs. That’s even trickier for those who have to leave their homes to work.
Children as young as 12 years old can now get vaccinated in the United States, but younger kids aren’t eligible yet. Parents with young children still have to weigh the Covid-19 risks in their day-to-day lives for a while longer.
Secondly, “there are still health concerns,” Barry said. “And people who maybe don’t want a career in retail due to health concerns.”
Third, retail is among the jobs that have changed most heavily over the last year. At many companies staff members were turned into essential front-line workers overnight, as unlike those in other industries they couldn’t work from home. Not every retail worker may want to continue to sign up for that as the pandemic continues.
Finally, companies like Best Buy are facing more competition for staff. Major companies including Under Armour, Amazon and Walmart, have raised their minimum wage to attract workers.
And picking a job during these times is no longer just about money.
Now, said Barry, “it’s about a wholesome set of benefits that we can put in place, and flexibility that we can put in place, so that we’re able to retain a diverse workforce.”