Just two years after the COVID-19 pandemic devastated the economy and more than 20 million workers were laid off, jobs have nearly recovered. The national unemployment rate is at 3.6%, and the total number of jobs on employer payrolls has bounced back to within 1% of pre-pandemic levels, a gap of about 1.2 million, according to the April jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Drill down and you’ll see that employment is ahead of where it was in February 2020 in many sectors: business and professional services, transportation and warehousing, finance, mining and drilling, even retail.
But some sectors are still struggling to fully recover — health care, child care and K-12 education, which offer jobs that have to be done in person and don’t pay very well.
There’s a growing jobs recovery gap between private employers that can raise wages fast in response to the tight labor market and government employers, which mostly can’t.
“The private sector has recovered more than 90% of the jobs lost in the pandemic, the public sector only around 60%,” according to Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter.
She pointed to state and local education jobs, like bus drivers, cafeteria workers and especially teachers.
“Our schools particularly have failed to recover. Lots of teachers have retired, and schools are not figuring out a way to get them back in,” she said.
One big reason …