Hiring in the U.S. slows as employers in some industries still struggle to fill positions

The U.S. job market showed steady growth again in August, but hiring slowed from a torrid pace. Unemployment ticked up to 3.7% even though employers added 315,000 new jobs. That's because more people tried to get back into the workforce. Even so, many employers say they still need more workers. Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The U.S. job market showed steady growth again in August, but hiring slowed from a torrid pace. Employers added 315,000 new jobs last month. It was the 20th straight month of job growth. And there are now 5.8 million more jobs than there were a year ago.

    The unemployment rate ticked up to 3.7 percent, as more people try to get back into the work force. But, even so, many employers say they still need more workers.

    Economics reporter Paul Solman has our report.

  • Paul Solman:

    For Concrete Pros in Northern Ohio, the work for their small crew never stops rain or shine. Getting business? No problem, says Lori Joyce. They're backed up for months.

  • Lori Joyce, Concrete Pros:

    The work is there.

  • Paul Solman:

    Good.

  • Lori Joyce:

    We just need the workers.

  • Paul Solman:

    How many employees could you have at this point if there were people willing to do the jobs?

  • Lori Joyce:

    We could get five or six more employees, yes.

  • Paul Solman:

    More than double the number of people you have now?

  • Lori Joyce:

    Correct.

  • Paul Solman:

    The job crunch is acute almost everywhere. A restaurant industry survey found fully two-thirds of its members short on workers.

  • Sava Farah, CEO, The Pulpo Group:

    Everybody wants to dine in them, but nobody wants to work in them.

  • Paul Solman:

    Sava Farah had to cut service to over three Ann Arbor, Michigan, establishments.

  • Sava Farah:

    I was told today that my hosts are making about $38 an hour on average.

  • Paul Solman:

    And you're having trouble filling those jobs?

  • Sava Farah:

    Absolutely. Isn't that something?

  • Paul Solman:

    Now, today's solid job report suggests more people are looking for work, and the unemployment rate ticked up in part as a result, because they haven't yet found any.

    Economist AnnElizabeth Konkel of the job posting site Indeed.com.

  • AnnElizabeth Konkel, Senior Economist, Indeed:

    Today's report shows that the labor market remains strong. We saw strong payroll gains. And while they weren't as strong as July's blockbuster numbers, it's clear that employer demand for workers is still going strong.

  • Paul Solman:

    But employers are still struggling to fill those jobs, more than 11 million job openings during the height of summer. So, the big question, why can't employers find enough workers?

    Among the reasons you have presumably heard before:

  • Lori Joyce:

    I don't see a work ethic out there like there used to be.

  • Paul Solman:

    That's Lori Joyce in Ohio.

    In Michigan, restaurant owner Farah agrees.

  • Sava Farah:

    I think hustle is very frowned upon with this younger generation.

  • Paul Solman:

    And that might be amplified by the wave of recent and ongoing government benefits, says Farah. Even the recent student loan reprieve?

  • Sava Farah:

    I think it absolutely takes the pressure off of a lot of college students and people who would otherwise be looking for a weekend job.

  • Paul Solman:

    Of course, there's also still COVID, fewer immigrants and low pay and high-stress jobs, like the no-benefits $14 an hour Jalen Graham gets to clean planes for American Airlines in Charlotte, North Carolina, having half the time he used to pre-COVID because of understaffing.

  • Jalen Graham Cabin Cleaner:

    At 14, 15 bucks an hour, you know that you're not really willing to deal with something like this.

  • Paul Solman:

    So, we have heard a bunch of reasons, COVID, lack of work ethic, fewer immigrants who will take the jobs, low pay, government benefits. Is that the full list?

  • AnnElizabeth Konkel:

    So, in addition to that, there is the reality of some workers retiring.

    Earlier in the pandemic, we saw workers 55 to 64 stepping out of the labor force.

  • Paul Solman:

    Again, economist AnnElizabeth Konkel.

  • AnnElizabeth Konkel:

    There's also as the additional reason of care challenges, workers stepping out of the labor force, so that they could deal with childcare challenges or elder care challenges.

  • Paul Solman:

    Exacerbated by COVID, which has stressed the entire work force, like his fellow cabin cleaners, says Jalen Graham.

  • Jalen Graham:

    We get new hires, and then they will come in for a week or two, kind of see how things go, realize how stressful it is, and they're already looking for another job.

  • Paul Solman:

    And, as they drop out, that puts more stress on you to clean up with fewer people?

  • Jalen Graham:

    Sure.

  • Paul Solman:

    So, it's like a vicious circle?

  • Jalen Graham:

    It's about as vicious as a hurricane, really.

  • Paul Solman:

    Vicious as a hurricane on the tarmac, at the table.

  • Sava Farah:

    The restaurant industry has historically been a challenging place to work, and it's become 10X more challenging.

  • Paul Solman:

    Ann Arbor's Sava Farah…

  • Sava Farah:

    When you don't have the right resources, everybody gets burned. Everybody gets hurt. People leave crying. People quit on shift. It's really kind of traumatic, to be honest with you, Paul.

  • Paul Solman:

    So, as I'm listening to you, I'm thinking this is like a labor supply chain crisis.

    And this was the aha moment for me. After a demand freeze, ships dry-docked, planes grounded, restaurants shut, a demand surge, whole industries overwhelmed, and their workers, for the various reasons mentioned, out of the work force, making the jobs more stressful and thus less attractive than ever to take.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," Paul Solman.

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