42 States Have More Available Jobs Than People Looking for Work Amid Labor Shortage

As the U.S. continues to navigate a significant labor shortage, a recent analysis of federal statistics found that at least 42 states have more jobs available than people who are looking to work.

A Stateline review of labor statistics from August, the latest data available, found that most states have a ratio of job openings to unemployed workers that is now higher than it was before the pandemic.

In states such as Utah, New Hampshire, Vermont, Idaho, Georgia, Alabama and Montana, that ratio is more than 2-to-1. Meanwhile, in Nebraska, there are as many as three job openings for every one worker, according to a report from Stateline staff writer Tim Henderson.

The data found that there are just eight states with more unemployed workers than job openings: Hawaii, California, Connecticut, New York, Illinois, New Mexico, New Jersey and Nevada. Overall, the labor shortage is most significant in areas with lower pay and public contact, such as transportation, food service and hospitality.

RF Buche, who operates a 116-year-old family chain of South Dakota fast-food restaurants and convenience stores, told Henderson that businesses have been scrambling to fill shifts and have been forced to cut hours due to a lack of workers.

"I'm more worried about burnout than anything else, people working extra shifts," Buche said. "It's as bad as I've ever seen, and I've been in this business all my life."

Labor Shortage Hiring Sign
42 states have more jobs available than people who are willing to work amid a nationwide labor shortage. Above, a ' We Are Hiring" sign hangs near the entrance to Mo's Bagels & Deli on November 05, 2021 in Hallandale Beach, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Experts believe the labor shortage has stemmed from issues including COVID-19 fears, generous unemployment benefits, lower immigration rates, and workers refusing to accept low pay rates. Last week, the Labor Department announced that a record 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in September, surpassing the previous record of 4.3 million set in August.

Marc Perrone, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), previously told Newsweek that he believes the shortage is a result of the gap between the compensation employers are offering and what Americans are now willing to work for.

"I think it's a wage shortage—especially in retail," Perrone said, adding that "people don't want to work for poverty wages."

That concern has prompted some employers to raise wages or offer signing bonuses as an incentive to attract more employees. In the past few months, large companies such as Costco, Walgreens and Starbucks have each announced increased wages for new and veteran workers to address the issue.

A number of states, including Florida, California, Illinois and New York, have also vowed to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour to address worker concerns. Ben Zipperer, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, estimated that over the next few years, four in 10 workers will live in states with a $15 minimum wage.

While some experts believe the labor shortage is a temporary problem that will recede with the COVID-19 pandemic, others believe the issue has yet to be fully realized within the economy.

"We're going to see it come up in the next couple of quarters as we try to continue to reopen," Mace McCain, chief investment officer at Frost Investment Advisors, told Reuters. "The reopening was delayed by the Delta variant, so we haven't seen the full impact of the labor shortage yet."