Washington. The United States celebrates Labor Day this Monday in the midst of an unpredictable economic situation that has sparked labor shortages and doubts about the return to office due to the continuing threat of the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite a progressive reactivation of the economy as vaccination progresses in the country, with more than 63% of the adult population in the US on the whole, economists are surprised that this is not accompanied by a rebound in job creation.
“Perhaps the most important data is the reduction in the number of workers who seek jobs and this has decreased from 6.5 million in July to 5.7 million in August,” said Betsy Stevenson, professor of economics and public policy at the university. From Michigan on his Twitter account last Friday.
Federal Reserve (Fed) forecasts point to economic growth in the country of 7%, which would be the highest annual rate since the 1980s.
However, economic indicators such as employment show a more complex scenario.
Labor market, far from normal
Unemployment figures for August, released last week, showed a decline of 5.2 per cent compared to 5.4 per cent in July, but with still weak creation of new jobs.
In August, the economy added 235,000 jobs, the lowest in seven months, compared to a million jobs added in July.
Part of the responsibility for this slowdown corresponds to the extension of the delta version of Covid-19, but there are deeper factors that are causing employees to reconsider returning to old normality.
A survey by the Conference Board research group on job satisfaction, published last week, indicated that 42% of those consulted in August worried about returning to the office because of the risk of getting infected, compared to 24% the previous month. expressed.
Similarly, of those who said they were looking for a job, 80% believed that policy regarding flexibility in working conditions was very or moderately important when deciding on a job offer.
Large corporations are divided when faced with this uncertain panorama.
Many companies, such as Google or Apple, have postponed their plans to return to the office; While others, such as investment banks Morgan Stanley or JPMorgan, have required their employees to return to their jobs.
“Let there be no doubt about it. We do our work in the Morgan Stanley offices, where we teach, where our peers learn, that’s how we develop people,” said its president, James Gorman, earlier in the summer. said.
Others, such as fast food chain Chipotle, have acknowledged that they have been forced to raise wages to attract employees.
Labor market data could influence decisions by the US central bank, which has said it is now considering changing direction in its monetary policy after heavy stimulus to cushion the pandemic.
The Fed has kept interest rates in the range of 0% to 0.25% since March 2020 and monthly bond purchases of $120 billion in response to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Its president, Jerome Powell, stressed on 27 August that “if the economy develops as anticipated, it would be appropriate to begin reducing the pace of asset purchases this year.”
However, suspicions of an economy that does not progress as expected may force the Fed to choose discretion and wait for clear signals to withdraw monetary support.