The nation’s labor market added 531,000 jobs in October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Employment Situation Report, released November 5. October’s increase indicates positive momentum has returned to the labor market after two months of employment gains falling well below estimates. This positive momentum is also reflected in the declines of pandemic indicators, such as the number of individuals who could not work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic, which declined by 1.2 percent compared to September. Though the national employment situation still falls short of the pre-pandemic landscape, investments planned by local governments in community workforce recovery are supporting tangible results.
U.S. employment continues to recover from pandemic shock
Total nonfarm employment increased by 531,000 in October, now 4.2 million below pre-pandemic levels
Through the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (Recovery Fund), counties are investing $65.1 billion into communities. Under the Interim Final Rule, as designated by the U.S. Department of Treasury, counties can invest recovery funds towards a myriad of employee assistance programs including employer rehiring initiatives, incentives for newly employed personnel, on-the-job training programs and employee supports such as transportation and childcare. Critical county investments that address community workforce needs include:
- Boulder County, Colo., is investing funds to support a Workforce Boulder County Virtual Call Center, which serves as a “hub” for individuals impacted by unemployment. The Center assists residents in regaining economic and employment stability by connecting those needing resources to the appropriate providers. Additionally, the county is investing in the Left Behind Workers Fund that provides direct assistance to residents who are ineligible for unemployment funds.
- Prince George's County, Md., has set aside $9 million of its Recovery Fund allocation for a Rapid Re-employment Grant Initiative. This initiative provides grants to employers who re-hire county residents that were previously laid off. The grants subsidize 50 percent to 90 percent of a re-hired employee for up to 12 weeks.
- Kaua'i County, Hawaii, is investing $1.1 million in Recovery Funds in the Office of Economic Development's Rise to Work program. This program was created to connect residents who lost their job with local employers to obtain temporary job opportunities. Participants in the program receive access to resources such as weekly pay, free health insurance, workforce development and networking opportunities.
Counties employ over 3.6 million people across the country. Local government employment suffered significant initial pandemic impacts, losing over 1.3 million jobs between February and May 2020. Since then, local governments have faced an uphill climb to recovery. As of October, the local government employment sector was 656,000 jobs short of pre-pandemic levels – nearly 290,000 of which were non-education-related jobs.
The Recovery Fund also allows flexibility for counties to address the loss of workers due to the pandemic, noting that funding may be allocated to support public health and safety staff through paid sick or family leave and rehiring county staff to achieve parity with pre-pandemic levels. Key county planning that addresses local government workforce needs includes:
- Erie County, N.Y., is leveraging the Recovery Fund to restore 107 positions that were cut due to the pandemic. These new positions will allow the county to re-staff the Parks Department, Division of Emergency Medical Services, Cancer Services Program, Purchasing and the District Attorney’s Office. Additionally, with the return of staff capacity, the county will be able to establish a new Office of Health Equity within the County’s Department of Health.
- Kern County, Calif., is investing $2.45 million in Recovery Funds toward the county library system. Due to the loss of revenue induced by the pandemic, Kern County could only operate 12 of the 24 branches across the county. By investing these funds, the county will help restore branch operations at 10 of the impacted locations. Libraries play a critical role in delivering services to residents, including closing the digital divide – an issue that was exacerbated by the pandemic.
- Denver City and County, Colo., is investing $43.6 million of Recovery Funds to restore over 270 positions within county agencies impacted by the pandemic. These funds will help address staffing shortages and ensure the county has full capacity to provide services to residents.
County employment investments coupled with funding to stabilize and build resilience for long-term workforce health help improve the local and national employment situation. As counties expend funding into local communities and coordinate with workforce stakeholders, the labor market will benefit.