Return to work after lockdown and new normal. Woman in protective mask in business suit looks to the side in corridor of modern office with blurred colleagues during covid-19, free space

The U.S. economy could see a boost toward the end of the year due to the cessation of unemployment benefits, according to a new survey by Morning Consult. Even though the end of these benefits will create an increased rate of job growth, some roadblocks still exist in the race to fill roles with qualified employees.

For their “Emerging U.S. Labor Market Trends” report, Morning Consult surveyed 5,000 U.S. adults about the issues that have prevented them from seeking work and accepting positions. The responses reveal key trends regarding when previously employed workers plan on making their return to the workforce, and the impacts this return will have on wages.

Respondents indicated that they feel increased pressure to look for work as their unemployment benefits are set to expire. This pressure decreased the farther out the expiration date was, with 40% feeling a lot of pressure to find work if their benefits expire in less than a month, but only 26% feeling the same amount of pressure if their benefits expire over three months. An additional incentive is driving the return to work, as over half of respondents (56%) said their prior income better covered their expenses as opposed to their unemployment benefits.

A slew of factors contributed to the refusal of job offers during the pandemic, including, but not limited to:

  • Child care obligations (14%)
  • COVID-19 or any combination of reasons associated with the pandemic (13%)
  • Receiving enough money from unemployment insurance without having to work (13%).

A total of 29% of unemployment insurance recipients turned down job offers during the pandemic. Other reasons for not being able to find employment include not finding available jobs or open positions (36%) and the open jobs are not within their desired industry/function area (36%). Flexibility was also cited as a factor job seekers value, with 35% of respondents saying open jobs don’t allow remote work.

According to the report, adults who voluntarily resigned from their positions during the pandemic had varied reasons for doing so, some of which were COVID-19, or any combination of reasons associated with the pandemic (63%), family/personal obligations (52%), and health risks due to the pandemic (50%).

A large chunk (45%) of unemployment insurance recipients have been unemployed for longer than six months. This could decrease the likelihood of rapid job growth in favor of a more gradual increase through the rest of the year. Also, almost half (48%) of homemakers who resigned during the pandemic plan to return within the next three months. Of these homemakers who left their jobs, former retail workers were most likely to leave because of pandemic reasons (65%).

Disabled adults also make up a considerable portion of those who plan to return to work soon, with 41% saying they intend to return in the next three months as well. Retirees, on the other hand, don’t plan to return to work on a large scale. Only 13% of those who retired since the start of the pandemic plan to return to work in the next three months.

For respondents who remained with their employer throughout the pandemic, only 24% experienced an increase in their income. Over half (55%) said it stayed the same, and 20% said it decreased.

The survey also revealed that respondents have low expectations when it comes to the salary they would accept for a new position. More than half (68%) indicated they would accept the same or less pay than they had earned before the pandemic. Of those that do expect higher pay, most of this pressure exists in industries that require face-to-face interaction and also give less flexibility to their employees such as a factory (44%) or store (42%). The decrease in desire to work in these fields could place elevated wage pressures on employers, as over half of store (63%) and factory (51%) workers said they are looking for work in a different industry.

Expectations for a wage increase are more common among younger workers, with 41% of those 18-34 years old indicating the minimum salary they would accept was more than they made before the pandemic. This compares to 26% of those 35-44 years old and 20% of those 45-64 years old who said the same thing.

All told, 2.3 million adults plan to come back to the labor force by September 2021. According to the report, this increase in workers would be enough to boost the labor force above what it was before the pandemic within a year, if all goes according to plan.