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Gina Raimondo, US secretary of commerce, speaks during an interview in Washington, DC. Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg
Gina Raimondo, US secretary of commerce, speaks during an interview in Washington, DC.

Biggest Concern for US CEOs: ‘Workforce, Workforce, Workforce’

U.S. has almost two job openings for every unemployed person. Leaders aren’t able to find enough workers with right skills.

(Bloomberg) -- US chief executives are most concerned about a lack of workers with the necessary skills, said Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, adding that most of them are cautiously optimistic amid several external risks.

The main worry she hears from CEOs is “workforce, workforce, workforce,” Raimondo said in an interview Thursday in Bloomberg’s Washington bureau. “We can’t hire enough, we can’t hire fast enough, we can’t hire people with the skills we need.”

Demand for US labor has rebounded strongly as the economy climbed out of the hole caused by the pandemic. The need for workers has greatly exceeded supply, with almost two job openings in place for every unemployed person, giving job seekers options and leading to strong wage growth. 

The US labor market burned red-hot in January as hiring unexpectedly surged and unemployment fell to a 53-year low, defying recession forecasts and adding pressure on the Federal Reserve to keep raising interest rates.

Raimondo said business leaders are also concerned about the impacts of artificial intelligence in the coming years and figuring out where they should be investing. 

“By and large, CEOs are optimistic, but nervous, cautious,” she said, citing worries over several issues, including higher interest rates, China, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and climate change. 

Raimondo also noted that supply-chain snarls caused by the pandemic are largely untangled, with most issues being narrowed to particular firms or inputs.

Supply chains globally have improved as shipping congestion and parts shortages have eased, although price pressures remain and consumer demand has weakened. 

“There are still issues in certain industries,” she said. There are “still some kinks,” specifically for large industrial companies including Boeing Co. and Airbus SE. 

“I think now it’s more pinpointed,” she added. “Particular parts of particular industries, particular pieces of the supply chain.”

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