Economists expected 1 million jobs to be created in the U.S. economy in April.
The official tally was 266,000 jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It was a big disappointment — including for President Joe Biden.
The laggard numbers show the challenges facing the U.S. economy, workers and employers.
Some of the jobs lost during the coronavirus pandemic’s shutdowns and pullbacks in spending have not come back yet. Others are long gone.
The COVID shutdowns put small businesses, restaurants and others out of business permanently.
Entrepreneurial and career dreams have been dashed, and hopefully just deferred, because of the government and our collective reactions to the coronavirus.
Other businesses are still testing the waters of getting back to pre-COVID levels — including with wages and new hires.
Policy makers — at every level — need to make sure we are charting paths that help workers but also employers, especially small businesses.
We are also hearing a lot about the challenges employers are facing in hiring employees and workers who are staying out of the workforce.
Some of those workers are making the cost-benefit analysis of unemployment benefits (which have been extended and expanded during the pandemic) versus working.
Other employees have had to cut their own hours or leave jobs because of child care issues with schools closed during the pandemic.
There is certainly a need to look at unemployment insurance benefits — their levels and durations. We need serious looks at their impacts on workers, employers and the jobs market.
But there also needs to be looks at broader aspects of jobs, wages and economy.
Some employers are already raising wages in order to attract qualified applicants. Employers will also have to look at benefits, flexibility and how they treat their workers.
For years much of the U.S. economy has shifted toward jobs in the services industries.
Too many of our jobs lack benefits, pensions and sustainable pay levels.
The picture of work and compensation for workers is very different in the U.S. compared to other industrialized nations.
Many employees are financially strained, burnt out and simply want better pay and benefits otherwise unemployment benefits will continue to be a tempting option.
This also comes as the economy faces inflation and supply chain challenges.
Employers and policymakers are going to have to chart better waters for jobs, workers and incentives to work. Otherwise, the labor market will continue to be challenged, jobs will go unfilled and growth will be stifled.