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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.

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Sep 28, 2021 - Economy & Business

Maybe we can ignore inflation expectations

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Just because we expect inflation to show up, doesn't mean it will. That's the message from an important new paper throwing cold water on a central tenet of monetary economics.

Why it matters: The Fed hikes interest rates when — and only when — it thinks inflation is otherwise going to be too high. That means it needs a formula to determine where it thinks inflation is going to be. But now a senior Fed economist is saying that the key ingredient in that formula "rests on extremely shaky foundations."

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congressman criminally charged with lying to feds

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) has been indicted on charges he falsified records and lied to federal investigators probing an illegal foreign donation scheme, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

Driving the news: DOJ says a Fortenberry associate, who later cooperated with investigators, informed him he'd likely received illegal donations from an intermediary for a foreign national, but that Fortenberry denied any knowledge of such a scheme when contacted by the FBI.

"Assassin's Creed," but for schools

"Viking Age: Discovery Tour." Image via Ubisoft

For the third time since 2018, Ubisoft is releasing a nonviolent version of its latest “Assassin’s Creed” game as part of a unique effort to turn one of the medium’s most popular series into an educational tool.

Driving the news:Viking Age: Discovery Tour” transforms last year’s “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” from a bloody 150-hour game about Viking conquest in 9th century England into a peaceful four-hour game about merchants and monks.