Companies should try digging in their pockets if they're looking to find workers for unfilled jobs, Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari said Tuesday.
With the unemployment rate falling to its lowest level in 49 years, there are nearly 1 million more job openings than available workers, according to the Labor Department. Even though payrolls have been growing at a solid clip, complaints persist from companies that they are having a hard time finding qualified workers to fill positions because of a skills gap.
Kashkari, though, said he doesn't completely buy the argument that there aren't enough bodies out there.
"I oftentimes hear businesses saying I just can't find the workers that I need," the central bank official said during a conference on immigration in his home district. "Now, I'm not entirely sympathetic with that view, because I've been saying you should try paying more, and you may be able to attract more workers."
"But nonetheless, the unemployment rate is going down, and there is a question about where the workforce is going to come from," he added.
Immigration would be one answer to solving the issue, with low population and productivity growth, Kashkari said.
In talking to business contacts around his district, he said, "You realize that immigration does have a role to play in helping both those problems."
Wage growth has been nudging higher lately, with average hourly earnings growth at 3.1 percent in October from the same period a year ago. That has helped the Fed stay around its 2 percent inflation goal as central bank officials maintain that the unemployment rate is below the long-term normal level.
The Fed has been gradually raising short-term rates in an attempt to tamp down a future inflation threat. Kashkari did not address monetary policy at the event Tuesday.