News & Commentary

December 19, 2022

Nicholas Anway

Nicholas Anway is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s news and commentary: We’re in the midst of a “structural” labor shortage, giving workers bargaining power.

“It feels like we have a structural labor shortage out there,” said Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell late last week. And according to Business Insider, the tight labor market is a source of worker power. There are just under 4 million more jobs than workers in the labor force, the Fed reported; the aggregate labor force participation rate remains stuck below pre-pandemic levels. Powell pointed to three factors as driving the worker shortage. First, “accelerated retirements”: Goldman Sachs estimated that of the 2.5 million people who retired during the pandemic, 1.5 million retired early. Second, Powell emphasized the pandemic’s tragic effects on workers, explaining that “[c]lose to half a million who would have been working died from COVID.” Third, the market is “missing” over one million immigrant workers, according to Giovanni Peri, the director of the Global Migration Center at the University of California at Davis. “If you ask businesses, you know, pretty much everybody you talk to says there aren’t enough people,” Powell said. The labor market demand, reports Insider, means that “employers are still offering more in attempts to get workers.”

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