NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Certain Sectors Benefit from Increase in Unemployment

December 4, 2001

A year ago, U.S. unemployment stood at a 30-year low of 3.9 percent, and employers were beating the bushes to find workers. Now it stands at 5.4 percent, and employers in certain sectors of the economy are snapping up the talent that is suddenly available.

Workers with general skills -- rather than specialists -- are reportedly in greatest demand. Even so, labor shortages remain severe in many industries and geographical areas.

Here are sectors which are benefiting from the 8 million Americans who are looking for jobs -- 2.2 million more than a year ago.

  • Job cuts by American Airlines and other big employers in Dallas are providing a huge pool of applicants to ease persistent shortages of teachers, cafeteria workers and custodians in schools.
  • The recession in Silicon Valley has freed up thousands of workers for nearby retail outlets who have been staffing up to serve holiday buyers.
  • The Internal Revenue Service has had no trouble hiring 10,000 workers to process 2001 tax returns.

An October membership survey by the National Federation of Independent Businesses shows that for 15 percent of members, the premier problem is availability of workers with appropriate skills -- down from a high of 24 percent last year.

But the health care and building trades sectors are still experiencing shortages of skilled workers -- which will become even more acute when the economy picks up, economists warn.

Source: Thomas A. Fogarty, "As Employment Increases, Labor Shortages Shrink," USA Today, December 4, 2001.

For text


Browse more articles on Economic Issues