Sep 5, 2023 - Economy

Worker shortage hangs over back-to-school rush

Data: BLS via FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

Local government employment — primarily jobs at schools — still hasn't recovered from the pandemic, according to fresh Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Why it matters: Parents are sending their kids back to school this week. But there may not be enough teachers there to greet them. Schools around the country are struggling to hire.

  • Local government was a weak spot in an otherwise solid jobs report.

Zoom in: "K-12 schools are yet again starting the school year with many unfilled vacancies," Julia Pollak, ZipRecruiter's chief economist wrote in a note.

  • Despite ramping up hiring efforts — and raising wages — "schools are still struggling to recruit teachers," Pollak told Axios' Courtenay Brown in an interview.

What happened: A lot of teachers left the profession during COVID.

  • Some older teachers retired. And some younger teachers were furloughed and didn't come back, suggests new research from ADP's Nela Richardson.
  • Shortages are worse in places where teacher pay is low and students are poor, notes the Washington Post.
  • But low pay is an industry-wide issue, especially in this strong labor market.

Flashback: Before 2020, local government hiring had finally recovered from the hit of the financial crisis, after a decade-plus slog.

  • Now, the number of local government employees in the U.S. is back to where it was in 2018 when that recovery was still underway.
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