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The US “labor shortage” is just a wage shortage

A retail store advertising a full time job on its open door in Oceanside, California
Reuters/Mike Blake
The workers are on the way.
  • Tim Fernholz
By Tim Fernholz

Senior reporter

Published Last updated

The US is coming back from the pandemic recession, and all eyes are on the job market. Some business owners, and in particular restauranteurs, are complaining vociferously about the difficulty they’re having finding workers. So is there a labor shortage?

The short answer is, not really.

The right speed for the employment recovery is simple: as fast as possible. In that sense, anything less than a return to full employment isn’t enough. But in reality, thanks to the unique character of the pandemic recession and the historic magnitude of the US government’s response to it, we are seeing an unusually speedy jobs recovery compared to recent recessions.

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