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Stateside Podcast: Mixed signals from a COVID economy

help wanted sign in window
Jodi Westrick
Michigan Radio
Despite the help wanted signs you're probably seeing in windows around town, the U.S. economy is still falling short on getting back up to the level of pre-pandemic job growth.

Sometimes, this economy feels like a bad relationship.

At first, you think…unemployment is low! The future looks bright! Sure, things have been tough, but we’re finally on the right track.

“The flip side though is to look at the number of people in jobs, and the number of people in jobs is still about six million below where it would have been if the economy had continued on its pre-pandemic trend," said Justin Wolfers, professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan. "So one measure says most of us are back to work, the other says, no we’re not, we’ve still got a long way to go.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has published December jobs report. And, like so many things in the COVID-19 pandemic, well, it’s complicated. Unemployment is down. Eighty-two percent of jobs lost in the pandemic are back. But, growth in new job openings last month was much slower than expected. That’s despite all the “now hiring” signs you’re seeing around town. Economists have been trying to crack the current labor market puzzle. On today's episode, we heard what one of them is making of these mixed signals.

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Stateside’s theme music is by 14KT.

Additional music byBlue Dot Sessions.

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April Van Buren is a producer for <i>Stateside</i>. She produces interviews for air as well as web and social media content for the show.