President Biden’s Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in an interview that many pre-pandemic jobs, especially in the retail and service sectors, might not come back even as the labor market recovers from the pandemic.
“The real issue, I think, is that a lot of the jobs that folks lost are the kinds of jobs, let’s say, for example, in retail or services industries, that might not be coming back or might not be coming back in the same numbers,” she said in an interview that first aired Thursday on CNBC.
“And so, what that means is, we have to lean into apprenticeships and job training and up-skilling,” she added.
Raimondo’s remarks came after the Labor Department said Thursday that weekly new jobless claims dropped to 364,000, a new pandemic low. But the data also showed that nearly 3.5 million Americans were still on traditional state unemployment benefits.
Her comments also came one day before the highly anticipated June jobs report, which showed that the US added 850,000 jobs last month, topping expectations of 706,000 new jobs.
Retail added 67,000 new jobs in June after seeing a slight drop in May, the data showed.
Another 194,000 new jobs came from restaurants and bars, leading gains in the hard-hit leisure and hospitality sector.
That still left leisure and hospitality 2.2 million jobs short of where it was in February 2020, before the pandemic gutted the economy. And despite the surge in new jobs, the sector’s unemployment rate actually jumped to 10.9 percent.
Throughout the US economy, there were a record 9.3 million job openings as of April. The federal government’s expected to release the number of openings for May next week, providing more insight into the gap between hirings and openings.
Friday’s jobs report also showed that average hourly earnings increased to an all-time high $30.40 per hour, up 0.33 percent from May, and 3.57 percent compared with a year ago.
Wages are typically among corporate America’s highest costs, and as the price of hiring rises, it could make companies reconsider headcounts.
Even as the jobs market kicked the summer off strong, Curt Long, chief economist at the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions, noted that the economy is still making up for a lackluster jobs recovery in the spring.
The US posted disappointing jobs figures in both April and May.
Amid the slower-than-expected recovery, some economists have commented that the labor market may have fundamentally changed during the pandemic, reducing the overall need for certain kinds of workers that businesses have learned to do without.
Long said he’s not entirely sold on that argument, adding that the data so far shows there’s “still a hole to fill” in leisure, hospitality and retail.