WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) introduced the Commission on the American Workforce Act alongside Congresswoman Shontel Brown (OH-11). This bipartisan bill would create a commission that brings together leading experts across industry, public services, labor, and community organizations to develop an understanding of how existing labor shortages developed and what policymakers can do to bridge the gap.
“One of the most common concerns I hear from small businesses in Northeast Ohio is that they have jobs available but cannot find qualified workers to fill them,” said Congressman Joyce. “As someone who has long supported policies to strengthen workforce training and close the skills gap, I’m proud to introduce this bill to help overcome the labor shortage undermining Main Streets here at home and across the country. COVID-19 created countless new challenges for our workers and their employers. But by better understanding the threats to the 21st century workforce, we can restore the legacy of the American worker and help our economy thrive once again.”
“Our country’s workforce is evolving, and the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how Americans work,” said Congresswoman Brown. “To support working families and small businesses, it is vital that we study and analyze labor trends. I am confident that this legislation will help close labor gaps, demonstrate the need for affordable childcare, and define the impact of COVID-19 on our workforce. Once we know the full scope of the problems we face, we will be better equipped to make even more informed policy decisions to support our workers.”
In recent years, the labor force participation rate, which captures the percentage of the population that is either working or actively looking for work, fell steeply as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, labor force participation rate is 62.1%. This is 1.3 percentage points below its level in February 2020, the month before the pandemic began pummeling the U.S. economy. To put it in perspective, if a similar percentage of people were in the work force today as in January 2000, America would have more than 15 million additional workers.
Currently, over 11 million jobs remain unfilled in America’s most technical fields due to a lack of qualified applicants while the hospitality industry, restaurants, and retail businesses, as well as schools, hospitals, and law enforcement agencies continue to face critical labor shortages. As a result, Americans have found stores and restaurants operating at reduced hours and charging higher prices. The causes of the ongoing labor shortfall are poorly understood and its impact is widespread, affecting college-educated and non-college-educated positions, public and private, for-profit and non-profit.
The Commission on the Workforce Crisis Act aims to bridge this information gap and overcome the labor shortage crisis undermining America’s economy by creating a commission to investigate what has caused these significant changes in the workforce. Specifically, the commission will:
- Bring together a range of experts from across American industry, academia, labor, and the public and private sector to leverage their first-hand experiences and knowledge about the challenges facing our country’s workforce and economy.
- Determine the extent to which COVID-19, remote work, the skills gap, demographic and family changes, federal and state policies, drug abuse, immigration, the decline in America manufacturing, the lingering impacts of past recessions and economic crises, and a variety of other factors have contributed to America’s workforce shortage.
- Make actionable proposals that Congress can consider and potentially enact to alleviate problems in the makeup of the American workforce and gainful employment.
Joyce has long advocated for policies to strengthen workforce training and close the skills gap, including cosponsoring the JOBS Act and introducing the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorizing Act. The JOBS Act would expand Pell Grant eligibility to qualifying short-term technical education training programs to help more Americans gain access to industry recognized credentials. The Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorizing Act, which recently became law, improves programs and grants that support the recruitment and retention of professionals for our nation’s nursing workforce.