US job market still missing 2.6 million people

The U.S. economy continues to see the effects of the pandemic, with 2.6 million fewer Americans participating in the U.S. labor force compared to workforce participation before COVID-19, Bloomberg reported Jan. 18. 

To take a closer look at this number, economist Raj Chetty, PhD, and his team at Harvard University's Opportunity Insights lab examined economic activity using anonymized data from private companies.

Their research showed that low-wage workers in high-cost areas are missing from the job market, according to Bloomberg. More specifically, they found that the U.S. is missing about a fifth of its low-income workforce compared to the beginning of 2020. 

"It is clear there are large swaths of the population who are still not employed, and these are low-wage workers who lost their jobs in precisely the places where high-income people cut back on spending so sharply a couple years ago," Dr. Chetty said, according to Bloomberg.

Workers in many industries were affected by the pandemic, especially retail and hospitality. In healthcare, workers were furloughed from their jobs. Healthcare workers have also left their jobs in recent years for various reasons. 

The latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that employment nationwide rose by 223,000 in December, and the unemployment rate decreased to 3.5 percent. 

Overall, healthcare job growth averaged 49,000 each month last year, compared with a monthly average of 9,000 in 2021.

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