Posted: November 08, 2021 by Kelly Murphy-Redd
We’ve all heard about the unemployment rate, especially during Covid.

The U.S. unemployment rate was 4.8% in September of this year. Prior to the pandemic it was 3.5%. There has definitely been improvement since the pandemic high of Florida’s unemployment rate is currently 4.9% and was 3.2% prior to the pandemic.

The unemployment rate doesn’t tell you how long people have been without jobs. Smart Asset puts it this way: “The official unemployment rate shows the number of jobless adults who were actively looking for work within the past four weeks, as a percentage of the total number of workers in the labor force.”

Unemployment rates don’t tell you who has a part-time job and wants a full-time job. It doesn’t tell you if the employee is working a low-skilled job beneath their abilities.  These people are underemployed.  It also doesn’t tell you who has given up looking for work or who may have started their own business when they couldn’t find work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t measure this.

The Federal Reserve representative who spoke at the One Okaloosa EDC Roundtable last month talked about maximum employment as one of their mandates. The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System states on their website:

“Maximum employment is the highest level of employment or lowest level of unemployment that the economy can sustain while maintaining a stable inflation rate.”

Monetary policy, taxes and inflation are subjects for another discussion.

When asked, for example, about people losing their jobs due to vaccine mandates and how that must affect the mandate, the speaker said the Federal Reserve did not deal with full employment. What’s the difference? It sounds the same to the rest of us.

Full employment is when everyone who wants a job can get a job. Full employment matters more to the individual in their day-to-day existence than maximum employment. Economic developers are concerned with full employment. Their work revolves around facilitating as many high-paying jobs as possible for workers in their communities. It’s about being able to put a roof over your head and food on the table.

An article in Forbes recently wrote about the unemployment rate going up due to companies firing people because of vaccine mandates. There is constant reporting of many companies who need workers but can’t find them. Companies are offering signing bonuses. Fast food chains and retail are surprisingly in that category. Some of our supply chain problems are due to worker shortages in certain areas. Many of the jobs available are not the jobs people want.

Wages are going up in some industries because of the desperate need of employees. But what happens to the people who already work there? Now the company has to raise their wages to be fair? Is this sustainable? Some companies are finding the people they hired are not really qualified and the cycle begins again.

It helps when there is a supportive state government. In Florida, Governor DeSantis has incentivized container ships to come to Florida instead of sitting off the coast of California. He has incentivized policemen who have lost jobs in other states to come to Florida. He has prohibited mandates. All of this helps the workers in Florida. It helps the economy and quality of life.

Economic developers have their hands fuller than normal during these times of uncertainty. They are a real hope for a community because they want what the employee wants: well-paying jobs that match the skills of the employee.