Blackstone executive Tony James cites tight labor market

Blackstone Group is facing the tightest labor market in nearly two decades and struggling to fill openings, according to Tony James, executive vice chairman of the private equity firm.

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“There used to be the narrative that, well the unemployment rate is low, but a lot of people that want jobs can’t find them,” he said on “Maria Bartiromo’s Wall Street” during an exclusive interview. “I don’t think that’s true. I think the unemployment is truly low. We’re at full employment. We’ve got a lot of economic growth. And it’s just hard for companies to hire workers.”

The unemployment held steady in March for a sixth straight month at a 17-year low of 4.1%, the Labor Department reported Friday. Employers added 103,000 jobs to the economy, compared with an increase 193,000 projected by economists.

The labor shortage is more intense in certain regions across the country. In the Midwest, for instance, there are too many open jobs and not enough people to fill them, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor.

While Mark Hamrick, a senior economic analyst at, called the lower-than-expected jobs number disappointing, he said it was important to remember that the job market is widely regarded to be close to full employment and that hiring gains should be slowing at this point.

As an aging Baby Boomer population exits the workforce, the labor shortage may only intensify. In order to fill positions, employers will turn to immigrants – particularly for jobs that citizens don’t want, according to James.

“We have a lot of openings that we can’t fill,” James said. “So you have to take that in context. It’s a lot easier to put big employment numbers up if you can find the people to take the job. It doesn’t matter. Any industry, any part of the country, skilled or unskilled, we’re having a hard time hiring.”