Indiana sees growing number of unfilled jobs

IN Focus: Indiana Politics

INDIANAPOLIS – As some businesses continue struggling to find workers, state data shows the number of unfilled jobs in Indiana is growing.

It’s not hard to find “now hiring” or “help wanted” signs across the Hoosier State and the rest of the nation as jobs remain unfilled.

“We’re still nowhere near the levels we were pre-pandemic,” said Andrew Butters, assistant professor at the IU Kelley School of Business.

Data from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development shows the number of open jobs statewide has increased 25% from early August to early October.

As of Aug. 2, 120,717 jobs were open in Indiana. That number climbed to 145,967 by Sept. 1. And by Oct. 1, the number of unfilled jobs statewide jumped to 151,845, according to the Department of Workforce Development.

There are several reasons why fewer people are going back to work, Butters said.

“Whether it be taking care of children because of child care considerations or taking care of someone that might be at risk health-wise for COVID or other reasons,” he explained.

Women and people without a bachelor’s degree are two of the groups with the biggest declines in labor participation, Butters said.

Early data shows the end of the federal pandemic unemployment benefits has not brought a significant number of people back to work, he added.

“Looking at the states that [ended] the federal benefits early, there didn’t seem to be much impact when it came to employment levels,” Butters said.

Experts point out some employers are now increasing wages to be more competitive for employees.

“I kind of look at it like the housing market,” said Larry Belcher, dean of the University of Indianapolis School of Business. “It’s a sellers’ market.”

That means Hoosiers and people across America are being more selective about jobs, Belcher said.

Lower labor participation isn’t the only reason jobs remain unfilled, he added. Some pre-pandemic problems have persisted.

“They’re looking for a particular skill set from workers, and they’re not finding the people that they think can exactly fill those jobs, and so they remain unfilled,” Belcher explained.

Experts say it’s hard to predict how much longer some businesses will have trouble hiring, but there’s no quick fix. 

“Firms are going to have to adjust,” Butters said. “We’re going to have to have sort of what we’ve been referring to as a new normal here when it comes to just how businesses operate.”

According to the Department of Workforce Development, as of August, Indiana’s labor participation rate of 63.1% is slightly above the national average, 61.7%.

When asked for comment on the increase in unfilled jobs, Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne said in a statement: “The Indiana Department of Workforce Development continues to help Hoosiers move to their next level. One of the most powerful tools to help people recover during times like this is education and training that leads them on a pathway to success.”

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