There Are More Jobs Than Jobless People in 42 States

By: - November 12, 2021 12:00 am

A hiring sign in Sioux Falls, S.D., beckons potential workers. As pandemic worries persist, service jobs are going begging as workers hesitate to return to work. David Zalubowski/The Associated Press

Read Stateline coverage of the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A record number of job openings and fewer workers to fill them have left 42 states with more available jobs than people looking for work, according to a Stateline analysis of federal statistics from August, the latest available.

Employers such as RF Buche, who runs a 116-year-old family chain of South Dakota fast-food restaurants and convenience stores, are scrambling to fill shifts and cutting store hours because they can’t find enough help.

“I’m more worried about burnout than anything else, people working extra shifts,” Buche said. “It’s as bad as I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been in this business all my life.”

The labor shortage, by one measure the most acute since 1968, means higher wages and increased bargaining power for workers. But some experts fear it also could dampen economic growth as the country struggles to recover from the pandemic. And it could make it more difficult to implement the .2 trillion infrastructure plan Congress approved, which the White House has said is expected to create millions of jobs in fields such as construction and trucking.

South Dakota, where Buche seeks workers, has one of the highest ratios of job openings to unemployed people who might fill them: There are nearly two openings for every unemployed person looking for work.

The ratio of jobs-to-jobless is almost 3 to 1 in Nebraska and more than 2 to 1 in Utah, New Hampshire, Vermont, Idaho, Georgia, Alabama and Montana. In most states, the ratio is higher now than it was before the pandemic.

There are just eight states with more unemployed workers than job openings: Hawaii, followed by California, Connecticut, New York, Illinois, New Mexico, New Jersey and Nevada. Hawaii and Nevada are heavily dependent on tourism, which still hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic levels. That may change as the United States reopens its borders to international travelers who are vaccinated.

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Tim Henderson
Tim Henderson

Tim Henderson covers demographics for Stateline. He has been a reporter at the Miami Herald, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Journal News.