A recap of this week’s top-five news items and resources from the intersection of business and government.
1. U.S. job openings hit record high as employers struggle to find workers
On Wednesday, the U.S. Labor Department released its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, reporting that job openings, a measure of labor demand, jumped 749,000 to 10.9 million on the last day of July. This is the highest level since the series began in December 2000. Layoffs also rose moderately, suggesting the sharp slowdown in hiring was due to employers being unable to find workers rather than weak demand for labor.
The labor crunch is expected to ease starting this month, with the government-funded unemployment benefits having expired on Monday. However, soaring COVID-19 cases could cause reluctance among some people to return to the labor force.
“While we expect the labor market will continue to make some progress in coming months, it will likely take some time for these severe labor imbalances to get resolved,” said Lydia Boussour, lead U.S. economist at Oxford Economics in New York.
Read the full story here.
2. A data center surge: How the pandemic catapulted the market
In a sea of industries negatively impacted by COVID-19, one industry has seen exponential growth: data centers. With more people working, schooling, shopping and binge watching from home, the need for instant virtual connection has never been greater. To keep up with increased demand, 611.3 megawatts (MW) of data center product is under construction in the U.S. according to JLL, which is more than double what was reported in 2019. Northern Virginia accounts for half of this growth.
Northern Virginia, specially Loudoun County, has long been a hot spot for data centers, due to legislative support, power, development, deployment of new IT technologies and other partnerships. Read more about the data center surge here.
Fostering data center growth in Maryland
During the 2020 legislative session the Maryland Chamber of Commerce established a coalition focused on data centers, a group of 60 business organizations and other interested stakeholders united in support of Senate Bill 397: bipartisan legislation that would provide a sales-and-use tax exemption for the sale of equipment used at a qualified data center. The bill passed, and in 2021 Maryland saw its first data center project emerge in Frederick with Quantum Loophole.
We asked Quantum Loophole’s Sylvia Kang, vice president of real estate, a few questions about their first-of-its kind, environmentally friendly data center campus and what it means for Maryland.
3. Maryland expanded COVID booster shot eligibility to some people
On Wednesday, Gov. Larry Hogan announced his administration is green-lighting COVID vaccine boosters for older adults in congregate settings. The move goes beyond the FDA’s approval, which allows for third doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for the immunocompromised.
Hogan expressed frustration with a lack of guidance on boosters from the federal government, and clarified that his administration is directing vaccination sites to administer booster shots to “anyone who considers themselves to be immunocompromised.” No doctor’s note or prescription is required.
Hogan’s spokesman said Wednesday that his administration is “interpreting that view to deem the seniors in congregate care settings as immunocompromised.” The FDA declined to comment directly on Maryland’s decision.
Read the full story here.
4. Reimagining childcare through innovative partnerships
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation hosted “Talent Forward: Breaking Childcare Barriers” earlier this month – the fourth event in their Talent Forward virtual series – convening business and policy experts to examine some of the most pressing questions families, childcare providers and the business community are asking, and develop solutions to those questions.
As we grapple with the ongoing pandemic and the uncertainty it brings to the workforce, including return-to-office plans, the need for quality, affordable childcare has never been more evident for both parents and employers. While no single policy, program or solution will be a silver bullet, quality childcare has bipartisan support, and innovative approaches are expanding new opportunities for providers, parents and employers.
5. How will the end of enhanced UI benefits affect the state’s labor market?
Labor Day marked the deadline set by Congress for the end of enhanced unemployment insurance benefits and the extra $300 a week that many claimants had been receiving on top of regular UI benefits. Maryland’s unemployment rate sits at 6%, just above the national average of 5.2%.
“We believe hiring will pick up with the expiration of additional benefits. We would also still like to see previous search for work requirements reinstated too,” said Maryland Retailers Association President Cailey Locklair. “Employers are still having a hiring crisis that spans all industries and job openings are at record highs. Additionally, employers are offering highly competitive salaries and benefits and have proven over and over again it is safe to return to work.”
Read the full story here.
Request a vaccine mobile unit at your business – The Maryland Dept. of Health will deploy mobile vaccination clinics for businesses interested in providing vaccinations to their employees and the community.
Event: MD legislators address the business community
To help the Maryland business community stay up to date on critical policy issues and political developments in these highly uncertain times, we’ve created a forum for business leaders to hear directly from six members of our Congressional Delegation, including, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and policy experts from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Register now for Congressional Roundup on September 22.