The U.S. economy added just 266,000 jobs in April — a mere fraction of economists’ expectations of nearly a million, and unemployment ticked up instead of dropping as predicted. According to economists, this is a clear sign that there are still giant holes in America’s economic recovery and that the coronavirus remains in the driver’s seat.

With vaccination rates slowing even as local economies fully reopen, the job market is reorienting itself into a new normal that assumes the virus might linger for the foreseeable future — a shift that labor experts say requires investment in a wide swath of workers if their skills are to reflect this new reality.

The severity and duration of the pandemic has led to countless small business closures, leaving workers without a job to return to as the recovery takes hold. “The questions are, Can I go back to my old employer, and can the consumer go back to the old storefront?” said Jeff Strohl, director of research at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

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