From the desk of Willie Delwiche.
The current imbalance between job openings and unemployed persons gets plenty of attention. That there are twice as many job openings as there are people looking for a job is a historically unique situation. Having more job openings than job searchers, however, is not unprecedented. That was also the situation in 2018 and 2019, though the emergence of COVID seems to have washed that from our collective awareness. I can still clearly recall discussing skilled worker shortages with small business owners in the Midwest. The policy responses (both fiscal and monetary) to COVID exacerbated these imbalances, but the seeds of the current wage and price pressures were being sown before lockdowns and social distancing became a reality.
This suggests a more deeply embedded issue for the economy in terms of reducing wage and price pressure than many (even those at the Fed) appreciate. The relative scarcity of workers may also mean that employers will be less likely to reduce headcount in the face of economic headwinds than they have in the recent past. Looking at average weekly hours and aggregate hours worked indexes may be more useful than watching payroll data.
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