Staffing Shortage Remains as Unemployment Claims Reach Lowest Point Since Start of Pandemic

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The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits is now at its lowest level since the start of the pandemic.

The Department of Labor said for the third straight week, claims have dropped and last week, the fewest number of people applied since March 14, 2020.

Here in Connecticut, the unemployment rate is at 6.8%, which is down from 7.4% last month.

So why are we still seeing such a shortage of workers?

A new Quinnipiac University poll finds about 40% of people say the pandemic made them or others they know more likely to look for a new job. And for younger workers aged 18 to 34, that number jumps to 63%.

On top of that, an overwhelming majority of people say they don't expect life to return to normal any time soon. One out of every four people say it well never go back to the way it was before the pandemic.

NBC Connecticut's Dan Corcoran spoke with the CEO of Career Counseling Connecticut, Daryl Capuano, about the staffing shortage and how it relates to this recent change in unemployment benefits.

Dan: How much of the staffing shortage is due to people not wanting to return to work and how much of it is people not wanting to go back to the jobs they used to do?

Daryl: That's a great percentage question. But I would suggest in both cases, people realize there's a better way. So they've suddenly realized that this isn't the way they want to spend their life. They like having their life integrated at home. So they neither want to go to a new job that will be the same as the old one or return to the way it was before.

Dan: So what do you think it is that will get us out of our staffing shortage?

Daryl: Employers will have to realize that FaceTime, commuting, endless meetings is not the way that most employees want to live. They want to integrate their lives. So if you can picture a single parent of any sort, while they were home during the pandemic, they could cook dinner and do laundry and run errands and maybe run out to grab their kids. While they were also working. They're working quite hard as well so productivity didn't suffer. What they didn't like was having to sit at the office until 6/6:30, rush home and do all those things that they were doing in the middle of the day, let alone battle traffic and needless interruptions while they were at work.

Dan: Do you think employers are ready to make those changes? Are they equipped to do that? Are they going to be forced to do that?

Daryl: They're both equipped to do it and they will be forced to do it. Most of our work in the knowledge economy does not require in-person interaction. Now, there is a little bit of a catch 22 here because we do desire community. And many entities do function better with a community of a staff and certainly in-person is better than virtual. Nonetheless, most people are tired of the drudgery of the everyday you know, repeat Groundhog Day 9-5 or 9-7 really for many people. So they are going to be forced to do it. Equipped, absolutely. We discovered, you know, we were all equipped to work at home at least in terms of getting the job done for most jobs.

Dan: So has the pandemic permanently changed the way that we work?

Daryl: Absolutely. So it does seem particularly among my younger clients, they are not going to settle for work that they used to have. I've seen this with countless people of all ages, but mostly with the 18 to 34 demographic that you cited earlier.

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