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How Hard Are People Trying to Find a Job?

Is there a skills mismatch or do millions refuse to take available jobs?
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Unemployment Leverls in Thousands

The above unemployment levels are from the BLS Household Survey. I highlighted three categories in yellow. The highlighted categories are generally low-skill occupations. 

Although some self-employed are very highly skilled, the highly skilled self-employed are likely working. If not, they easily could be in a lower skilled occupation.

Unemployment Levels Select Occupations 

Unemployment Levels Select Occupations 2021-09

The above chart shows the unemployment levels in low skill occupations with the addition of Education and Health which encompasses low and high skill areas, doctors and nurses being high skill.

Unemployment Rates Select Occupations 

Unemployment Rates Select Occupations 2021-09

The lowest skill occupations in which there are millions of openings have the highest unemployment rates. What about openings?

Job Openings Select Occupations 

Job Openings Select Occupations 2021-07

Job Openings come from a BLS JOLTS Establishment Survey. It currently lags by employment data by two months. 

Some categories precisely match, others don't. For example, the household survey lumps wholesale and retail trade together while the establishment survey itemizes them separately. 

Of more importance, the household survey category Education and Health is not quite the same as establishment survey "Health Care and Social Assistance".

Social Assistance is a low pay but demanding occupation. Who really wants to assist the elderly in a nursing home with Covid rampaging on and off? 

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Total Openings

  • Total: 10.9 Million
  • Leisure and Hospitality: 1.8 Million
  • Retail Trade: 1.1 Million
  • Health Care and Social Assistance: 1.8 Million
  • Wholesale Trade: 290,000

Increase in Job Openings Since February 2020

  • Total: 3.9 Million
  • Leisure and Hospitality: 874,000
  • Retail Trade: 366,000
  • Health Care and Social Assistance: 646,000
  • Wholesale Trade: 114,000

Those numbers are from July and are undoubtedly higher today. 

I accept there is a skills mismatch for millions of jobs. But for low-skill occupations, it should be easy to see that millions of people prefer not to work. 


  1. Millions of low-skill workers made more in unemployment benefits than they made working. 
  2. Many of them saved that money and feel no strong pressure to work even as pandemic benefits expired.
  3. Others moved back home and feel little pressure to work. 

Those who saved their pandemic benefits just might take a lot longer to look for a job.

That's the huge flaw in analysis that supposedly shows little improvement between states ending benefits early and those who didn't. It will take time to sort this out.

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