How to Address Worker Skill Gaps in the Return to Work

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During the pandemic, the number of long-term unemployed people — those out of work for at least 27 weeks — has skyrocketed from about 1 million to 4 million. While there are hopes that the vaccine rollout will help businesses rebound, another challenge lies on the horizon: getting workers back up to speed. As economist Lisa Cook of Michigan State University explained to NPR, “Skills atrophy.” Long-term unemployment throughout the pandemic could mean a surge of workers facing skill deficits. It’s a concern Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell brought up nearly a year ago, before anyone knew how long the pandemic would last. In an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes, he cautioned that “longer and deeper recessions tend to leave behind damage to people’s careers.”

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