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Local reaction to April jobs report

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 6:53 PM EDT
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(WNDU) - April of 2020 was the month after a national emergency was declared, and the country lost a record 20.5 million jobs.

This April didn’t do much to even up the score.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 266,000 jobs were added to the economy in April of 2021.  That compares to 770,000 in March, and 536.000 in March. It’s a drop in momentum that worries some more than others.

“And fundamentally, this kind of up and down is fairly constant in our economy,” insisted IUSB Associate Professor of Labor Studies, Paul Mishler, PhD.   “I think it’s modestly optimistic.  I think jobs are maintaining themselves. I think we’re, in particular areas that were hard hit by COVID, we’re all experiencing that as that eases up, people are going back to work,”

The biggest job gains were posted in the leisure and hospitality sector where food services alone accounted for the addition of 187,000 workers last month.

But the gains were offset by losses in the temporary help category of 111,000, a loss of 77,000 jobs in transportation and warehousing, and a loss of 18,000 jobs in manufacturing.

“I don’t think COVID ruined any part of the economy,” Mishler noted.  “I think this is post COVID.  I think that there is a new optimism in the economy in general due to the change in political administrations. I think the kind of strengths the economy had are still in place. And I think that’s important because that’s actually one of the things we were afraid of, is that wouldn’t be in place, right?  People would lose jobs for a month or two and find nothing there.  I think that’s not happening.”

At Steel Warehouse in South Bend employment levels are back, and beyond the pre-COVID levels.  The company held a job fair yesterday and made 20 offers.

“I don’t know if you like to fish or not, but, you know, part of the problem is, it doesn’t matter what kind of lure you use, if there are no fish in the pond, and right now, there just don’t seem to be many fish in the pond,” said Steel Warehouse VP of Human Resources Charles von Herrmann.

Despite a starting wage of $19, a free health clinic, and a 401-k, the problem at Steel Warehouse isn’t creating jobs as much as filling them.

“So, you’ve got about a six point, well I think it’s around 6.1 percent unemployment rate and that’s what you’re referring to. You haven’t, you haven’t added that many jobs recently, and yet we can’t find people.  You know, how do you put all that together?” von Herrmann asked.

Von Herrmann suspects the increased unemployment benefits that came out of the pandemic are primarily to blame.  “For people that are really looking for careers, and we look for people that want careers, not just jobs. For people who want careers, it’s short sighted just to accept the government’s largesse and, you know, the fact of the matter is we have jobs available now where if people want a career with our company, it’s a great time to join.”

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