January 2022 - Parks & Recreation - 16

RESEARCH
Parks and Recreation Feels
Impact of Labor Shortage
By Kevin Roth
I
t is not just your agency. Employers across the United States are struggling
from a labor shortage not seen in many decades. The Bureau of
Labor Statistics estimated that there were more than 10 million open
jobs this past fall. As bad as that sounds, it represented an improvement
from the summer when there were a record 11 million unfilled jobs.
As a comparison, the number of open jobs averaged slightly more than 7
million in 2019 and 3.5 million as recently as 2011.
Local and state government employers
are facing a particularly acute
problem in finding workers. Back in
July, there were 523,000 open local
and state government jobs (excluding
education).
By
comparison,
there
were 364,000 open jobs in a
pre-pandemic July 2019, which was
double the 180,000 unfilled jobs back
in the summer of 2011.
Park and recreation agencies are
competing with private-sector employers
for enthusiastic and qualified
workers. Those employers,
too, have been unable to fill their
many employment opportunities.
In July, private-sector employers in
the healthcare and social assistance
space had 1.762 million unfilled
jobs, while there were 1.672 million
open positions in accommodation
and food services. The combined
total was 30 percent greater than
the number of open jobs in July
2019 and more than triple the number
of employment opportunities
during the same month in 2011.
Exacerbating the issue is what
some people refer to as The Great
Resignation. Abundant job opportunities,
shifting life priorities and
growing caregiving needs at home
have led people to leave their current
jobs at a record pace. More than 4
16 Parks & Recreation |
million people quit their jobs in both
July and August 2021, a 15 percent
increase from the comparable
months in 2019 and more than double
that of the same months back in
2011. In August 2021 alone, 86,000
non-education state and local government
workers quit their jobs.
Also weighing heavily on park
and recreation agencies' hiring is the
number of people who are able and
willing to work. More than 8 million
workers left the labor force during
the first months of the pandemic in
spring 2020. Not all of them have
come back. Increased caregiving
needs at home (caused in part by
a lack of availability of childcare),
changing life priorities resulting from
the pandemic and early retirements
all have left the United States with
fewer workers than before the start
of the pandemic.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics
estimates there were 161.458 million
people in the U.S. labor force
this past October. This was a decrease
of 3 million people compared
to February 2020. Viewed a
different way, the labor force participation
rate for people ages 16
and older was at 61.6 percent in
October, down from 63.3 percent
from February 2020 and 64.2 perJ
ANUAR Y 2 0 22 | PARK S ANDRECRE AT ION . OR G
cent from 10 years earlier. The labor
force participation rate has not
been this low since the mid-1970s.
What these numbers signal is that
the U.S. labor market is as tight as
ever seen in the modern era, adding
to the already long list of challenges
felt by park and recreation agencies
across the nation. Park and recreation
leaders find themselves competing
with better-funded employers that
can offer higher wages and benefits.
Agencies that faced sharp budget cuts
during the pandemic and resulting
recession are simply unable to keep
up with rising labor costs. As a result,
parks and recreation must entice
workers with non-financial benefits
that come with their jobs, including
the ability to serve their community.
Parks and recreation is a people
business, where 165,000 full-time
employees and hundreds of thousands
of part-time workers deliver
programming, provide services and
maintain the essential infrastructure
of more than 10,000 agencies
across the United States. For example,
there is no substitute for skilled
people in delivering out-of-school
time and youth sports programming
to millions of children each
day. And, it takes consummate
professionals to maintain the parklands,
trails, buildings, aquatic facilities
and sports fields that make
up the typical agency. An inability
to find qualified, enthusiastic workers
will hamper many agencies
from delivering on their missions.
Next month, we will look at
some of the broader labor market
trends, with a particular focus on
the struggles surrounding hiring
younger seasonal workers.
Kevin Roth is NRPA's Vice President of
Research, Evaluation and Technology
(kroth@nrpa.org).

January 2022 - Parks & Recreation

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of January 2022 - Parks & Recreation

January 2022 - Parks & Recreation - Intro
January 2022 - Parks & Recreation - Cover1
January 2022 - Parks & Recreation - Cover2
January 2022 - Parks & Recreation - 1
January 2022 - Parks & Recreation - 2
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January 2022 - Parks & Recreation - Cover3
January 2022 - Parks & Recreation - Cover4
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/february-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/january-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/december-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/november-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/october-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/september-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/august-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/july-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/june-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/may-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/april-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/march-2021
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com