MD's Worker Shortage Is Among Nation's 'Most Severe': Chamber Of Commerce


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said Maryland’s worker shortage is among the nation’s “most severe.” A “Help Wanted” sign is shown here. (Shutterstock)

Patch national reporter Beth Dalbey wrote this story.

MARYLAND — Employers in Maryland and every other U.S. state face unprecedented challenges as they try to fill open jobs, according to a new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that says the nation’s worker shortage has become a crisis.

Even if every unemployed person in the country found a job, it still wouldn’t solve the worker shortage crisis, according to the Chamber, a large business lobbying group. Data updated at the end of September shows 9.6 million job openings, but only 6.4 million unemployed workers, the group said.

The Chamber broke states’ worker shortages into four categories — least severe, severe, more severe and most severe — in the report that crunched data on job openings, unemployment rates, labor force participation rates, quit rates and hire rates.

Maryland fell into the most severe category with a worker shortage index of 0.40, which is based on the number of available workers for every job opening. States with the highest ratio have more workers available to fill jobs. 

In Maryland, there are 40 available workers for every 100 open jobs.

Here are the statistics, updated in September, used to compute that index:

  • Job openings: 169,000
  • Unemployed workers: 54,811
  • Labor force participation rate: 65.3%
  • Unemployment rate: 1.7%
  • Quit rate: 2.3%
  • Hiring rate: 4%

The vast majority of states have more job openings today than in early 2020. 

Job openings in Maryland have increased between 10% and 39% between February 2020 through July 2023. During the same period, the labor participation rate was above the national average.

Only a dozen states — Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Virginia — have a higher percentage of their labor force working than before the pandemic.

Overall, U.S. employers have lost 1.9 million workers since February 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic upended workplaces. Today, only 62.6 percent of working-age Americans are employed, 0.7 percentage points below pre-pandemic levels.

Early retirements, increased savings and immigration at the lowest level in decades are among factors contributing to the exodus, the business group said. Also, a 2022 survey of unemployed workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic said the need to care for children or other family members made it difficult or impossible to return to work. Entrepreneurship has soared, too, with nearly 10 million new business applications and, in 2020 alone, more than 4 million new businesses were started.

One significant contributor to the worker shortage was a sharp decline in immigration from 2020 to 2021. Only 247,000 people legally entered the United States that year, down 76 percent from the decade high of 1,049,000 immigrants from 2015 to 2016, according to the lobbying group, which lists legal immigration reform among its legislative priorities.

In short, the “great reshuffle” has worked its way into workplace vernacular along with the “great resignation” during the workforce shift, the Chamber said, noting “the hashtag #quittok even went viral on social media as users posted about quitting their jobs in search for more free time and better opportunities.”

About 3.5 million people quit their jobs in August, the report said, but the hiring rate has outpaced the quit rate since November 2020.

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I guarantee that there's no shortage of workers; there's just a shortage of people who are willing to work for wages that don't allow them to survive and thrive without maybe having two or three jobs.  Those jobs also often happen to be jobs with crummy scheduling, crummy treatment, crummy working conditions, little or no paid leave, no benefits or benefits they can't afford with the lousy pay they earn or benefits that are of such poor value that they're not worth having, etc.  All while companies report record profits quarter after quarter, year after year.  If companies pay people a thriving wage, provide good leave and benefits, train and incentivize supervisors and management to treat people well, without a doubt those companies will see hordes of people apply for their jobs and stay in those jobs.

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