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Il floats like a malaise in the labor market in the United States, long considered one of the most dynamic in the world due to its extreme flexibility. Signs of dysfunction appear as the country emerges from the Covid-19 crisis. Economic growth is here, order books are filling, companies are ready to recruit with all their hands, but now, millions of employees are giving up on being hired, while millions of others are resigning at an unprecedented rate. . A spring seems to have broken.

Compared to the end of 2019, five million employees have disappeared from the statistics. The participation rate, the proportion of working-age Americans who have a job, or are actively looking for one, fell to 61.6% in September, two points below its pre-crisis level. You have to go back to the 1970s to find such numbers. Even if labor shortages also exist in Europe, the participation rate is increasing there.

In July, Jerome Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve (Fed), was moved by the situation during a hearing before a Senate committee. “We are lagging behind all comparable countries in terms of labor market participation, this is clearly not where we want to be as a nation., he cursed. We need to make efforts to ensure that people reenter the workforce even if they cannot return to their old jobs. “

Automation of routine tasks

The phenomenon calls out all the more so as there is no shortage of job offers. Currently 10.4 million positions are available. Without being able to recruit, companies struggle to meet demand and do not hesitate to speed up the automation of routine tasks. Automatic checkouts in stores and digital tablets in restaurants are growing at a rapid pace. Nearly half of the positions that were occupied by the 5 million employees who are still missing, can be automated, according to assessments by Oxford Economics. Their disappearance could therefore become final. This is good news for productivity, but which will be accompanied, at least initially, by a shrinking labor market.

This is all the more disturbed as a record number of resignations are recorded. In August, 4.3 million workers left their posts, according to the latest figures from the labor department. Some leave to find a better paying job, others want to change their life. Since April, the trend has accelerated. In the restaurant business, in August alone, one in fourteen employees resigned. Employers are trying to dissuade them by increasing wages. In vain so far.

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