February 28, 2024

The chief executive of the US Chamber of Commerce said Thursday that the # 1 problem facing American companies is their inability to recruit enough skilled workers.

Suzanne Clark, who joined CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street,” blamed widespread skilled labor shortages, Covid-era government unemployment benefits, lack of access to childcare and restrictions on work visas for employers’ difficulties finding employees.

“I get in touch with job creators across the country: small businesses, large businesses. In every industry, in every region. And they keep bringing up the labor shortage: that’s the first thing I hear about, ”she said. “There’s a lot of fear out there.”

Clark, the first woman to head the 100-year-old chamber, found there was a record 9.3 million job openings across the country as companies reopen after the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department of Labor reported last month that April job availability increased 32.7% in leisure and hospitality, the sector hardest hit by the public health crisis and subsequent lockdowns.

CNBC policy

Read more about CNBC’s political coverage:

Wall Street will speak on Friday about the latest update to the department’s monthly job report, which shows the number of non-agricultural contractors added in June.

It is estimated that employers created a healthy 706,000 jobs during the month and the unemployment rate has fallen to 5.6%, according to economists polled by Dow Jones.

Clark, who leads the most powerful mouthpiece of American corporations in Washington, praised the $ 1.2 trillion physical infrastructure deal negotiated between the White House and a bipartisan group of senators.

“We’re excited. These are critical roads, ports, bridges, airports, but also rural broadband. It also brings the lead out of drinking pipes across the country,” she said. “This is good business. It works without tax increases and has our full support.”

Suzanne Clark, President and CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce.

Salvan Georges | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Clark said she was optimistic about the bill’s chances in Congress despite some opposition from progressive Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has made it clear that her chamber will not adopt the Physical Infrastructure Act without a separate bill to fund climate initiatives and training facilities for workers and to extend workers’ vacation benefits.

President Joe Biden resumes a road show this weekend promoting the deal if he is to go to Michigan.

“Ultimately, lawmakers understand what is important in their districts and they understand why this needs to be done,” said Clark. “We will speak to each and every one of them and remind them what this means for jobs and productivity in their district. What it means for their bridges, what it means for their drinking water.”

“There is too much good in this bill that any legislator will find it difficult to explain why they didn’t want this good stuff at home.”