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Feds: Unemployment, Inflation, Recession Have Economy at Crossroads

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Rustic sign in a restaurant window during time of COVID-19 stating the business is understaffed and is hiring in a struggling economy, showing the plight of small businesses in the post-pandemic economy. | Image by Shutterstock

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(The Center Square) – As the nation pays tribute to the American workers’ contributions and achievements on Labor Day, economists with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis say the labor market and the economy are at a crossroads.

William M. Rodgers III, the vice president and director of the St. Louis Fed’s Institute for Economic Equity, analyzed how unemployment, job vacancies, inflation and the possibility of a recession will affect the American worker in two recent blog posts.


“Even though the economy is cooling off, the labor market remains strong, especially for vulnerable workers,” Rodgers wrote. “To date, employment among vulnerable workers has not fallen, but it could as the number of job openings contracts. Fears are growing that the economy is already in or moving toward a recession.”

As Rodgers looked back on the year since last Labor Day, the labor market continued to recover from the COVID-19 recession. However, inflation – at the highest levels in 40 years – is reducing wage gains resulting from high numbers of job openings and low unemployment.

Openings peaked at 11.9 million in March and decreased to 11.2 million in July, according to Fed research. Rodgers believes fewer job openings could lead to higher unemployment among vulnerable workers.

“If labor market conditions begin to deteriorate, lowering structural barriers to getting a job that the pandemic exacerbated could help,” Rodgers wrote. “Investments in supports that help job searchers receive and accept offers have the greatest potential to reduce these barriers to work. This is particularly important for fully restoring the labor force participation of women, especially mothers, who disproportionately left paid work during the pandemic to take care of their families.”

Rodgers and Alice L. Kassens, a professor of economics at Roanoke College and a research fellow at the Institute for Economic Equity, also examined obstacles preventing some from returning to the workforce.

“Further, many structural barriers existed before the pandemic, including weaker skills, lack of access to affordable, good-quality child care, transportation problems, incarceration, addiction and discrimination,” they wrote. “Individually and collectively, they reduce job matching efficiency.”

While they note an economy is in recession when gross domestic product falls in two consecutive quarters, they also state the National Bureau of Economic Research’s definition of a recession relies on a variety of indicators. If we’re in a recession or entering one, economists can’t predict its effects on employment.

“One potential pathway is that the overall unemployment rate will not increase substantially as the job openings rate falls,” wrote Rodgers and Kassens. “Under this scenario, the number of job openings could fall from its extremely high level over the next few months to a lower (but still strong) level and have a relatively limited effect on hiring and unemployment.”       

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Wolfman
Wolfman
20 days ago

315,000 jobs created….Is that gross or net? One thing this administration has a nasty habit of doing is ignoring/deleting those things that make them look bad. If you’ve created 315,000 jobs but lost 250,000 jobs, then the actual number of jobs created is 65,000

caseyp
caseyp
Reply to  Wolfman
20 days ago

Amen. This unqualified administration tells so many lies to cover up the horrible job they are doing. It’s Democrat typical procedure to use political sleight of hand to deflect from the truth. Just days ago they were reporting that the unemployment rate had fallen. How can that be when so many companies are looking for work?

Janet
Janet
Reply to  caseyp
19 days ago

Sleight of hand? Defecting from the truth? Maybe. But is this any different from the outright lies of the previous administration?

caseyp
caseyp
Reply to  Janet
19 days ago

Lies? What lies. Can you name one from a credible source? Not one from CNN, MSNBC or the cows of The View.

caseyp
caseyp
20 days ago

This article is contradicting. Plus, America is already in recession and has been for months. If Democrats win in November we will be in full depression.

Janet
Janet
Reply to  caseyp
19 days ago

If the democrats win in November, the only depression will come from the MAGA (Make America Gross Again ) crowd!

caseyp
caseyp
Reply to  Janet
19 days ago

You really are uninformed. It’s a shame that you and people like you are allowed to vote.