Jul 1, 2021 - Economy

Workers are overcoming COVID fears

Data: U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey; Chart: Axios Visuals

COVID-19 fears are receding in the U.S., and this trend will have more and more Americans returning to work.

Why it matters: A slew of factors have kept Americans on the sidelines despite robust demand for workers, leading to labor shortages and inflation in some categories.

By the numbers: Since June 2020, the Census’ Household Pulse Survey has been keeping a tally of those not working because they were "concerned about getting or spreading the coronavirus."

  • This number peaked at 6.24 million in early July 2020 but has been trending lower ever since. As of June 21, 2021, it was sitting at 3.05 million.
  • For context, there were 7.6 million fewer Americans employed as of May than there were before the pandemic.

Many are quick to argue that the availability of enhanced unemployment insurance benefits is a major cause of labor shortages.

But, but, but: "There just isn't strong evidence to suggest that enhanced jobless benefits are a major drag on the jobs recovery," Oxford Economics’ Oren Klachkin tells Axios.

  • In a research note to clients, Klachkin observed "a tenuous relationship between changes in the number of people receiving supplemental jobless benefits and the number of people sending out resumes or filling out job applications."
  • Recent studies from the San Francisco Fed and Indeed Hiring Lab confirm as much.
  • "Health conditions are the most important factor for labor market healing," Klachkin

The big picture: "People are feeling safer about returning to work, which should help businesses staff-up to meet the tremendous demand we’re seeing right now," Wells Fargo senior economist Sarah House tells Axios.

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