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Virginia is seventh in states struggling the most to find people to hire

Rebecca Barnabi
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The labor participation rate is at 62.1 percent in the United States, one of the lowest rates in decades.

WalletHub released its updated data on 2022’s States Where Employers are Struggling the Most in Hiring.

The personal finance website compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on the rate of job openings for the latest month and the last 12 months.

Virginia is seventh in states struggling to hire, with a 7.4 percent current job openings rate, and a 7.3 percent job openings rate in the last year.

The state struggling the most is Alaska with an 8.3 percent job openings rate, followed by 7.6 percent in Georgia, 7.5 percent in Montana, 7.7 percent in Louisiana, 7.6 percent in New Mexico and 7.4 percent in West Virginia.

Struggling the least with a job openings rate of 5.4 percent is New York, followed by Washington, D.C., Connecticut, New Jersey and Florida.

Gerald Friedman, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, said employers are struggling to fill positions because they were reluctant to raise wages.

“Also, the available labor force has fallen because around 5 million (3 percent of the labor force) are out because of COVID and long COVID. And, many workers have left certain occupations (e.g., personal service and food service) to avoid COVID,” Friedman said in a press release.

Dr. Jeffrey B. Arthur, an associate professor at Virginia Tech, said a mismatch exists between the characteristics employees possess who are searching for work and the types of jobs employers want to fill.

“We have seen layoffs in the technology sector, and yet low-wage service sector jobs (e.g., hotel, retail, childcare. healthcare) are not able to find enough people to fill these positions,” Arthur said in the press release. “Employees in these sectors are looking to find positions with better pay, flexibility, and working conditions and many employers are not able to (or willing to) provide these things. As long as employees have employment alternatives, companies that are not able to meet employee demands will continue to find it difficult to fill these positions.”

How can employers attract and retain employees during this troubling period?

“I think one of the most important things employers can do to attract and retain talent is to ensure that their people receive an array of value forms,” Shelley Brickson, associate editor of the Academy of Management Review and associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said in the press release. “These include material value, but also include physical well-being and different types of psychological esteem (self-respect, respect from colleagues, respect from the organization, and pride in the organization). Money is important, but it is more nuanced than we realize and it needs to be part of an array of value forms that generate overall well-being. To be even more effective, leaders can help their people to understand how their actions are actually co-creating the value that they and others receive. This makes work more meaningful.”

Sandra E. Black is a professor at Columbia University and she said research points to higher wages increasing the supply of employees, and reducing turnover among existing employees.

“If firms are having a hard time attracting and retaining workers, making the jobs more appealing – with higher wages and better benefits – will help,” Black said.
According to Jeremy Hill, director of the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University, said the economic impact from the household perspective will be positive.

“The upside is that there will likely be upward mobility, where people in low and moderately-skilled jobs will have an opportunity to move up and gain experience and increased income. One might expect that the impact of unfilled positions would harm the firm. In the short run, some businesses will experience hardship because they cannot find the labor to fill the demand; however, we might need to look at the labor market differently since we are at full employment. It is not that households are not willing to work; they are willing, provided that the compensation and environment align with their expectations. The impact on businesses is they need to shift their perspective. If labor remains critical, they need to increase compensation to attract employees, train lower-skilled staff to allow for upward mobility, or add technology to increase the productivity of the current employees. These efforts will cut into corporate profits, which will likely shake out weaker players and industries,” Hill said.

Friedman said wages will rise, especially at the bottom of the job market, and somewhat reverse rising inequality.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.