Jobs, jobs, jobs – pandemic workers shortage continues

The writer is a contributing columnist to the Financial Times

I’ve learned one invaluable lesson from the coronavirus pandemic: don’t waste time trying to predict the future.

Just as I never thought I would spend a year of my life stuck at home, nor did I foresee what happened with the easing of US pandemic restrictions. I assumed many Americans would struggle to find jobs after the shutdown; Instead, jobs are struggling to find people. Every aspect of life after the pandemic – and death – is affected by the lack of employment.

The cemetery where my late mother and brother are buried, and where I will one day lie, sent emails last week apologizing for the tall weeds and weeds that pile up the graves, saying they couldn’t hire enough workers to mow the lawn.

When my family ventured out for one of our first mask-free meals, at a local Korean barbecue restaurant, we only found two die-hard employees serving dozens of diners (chef’s note: we never got garlic pork cutlets).

Some municipal pools across the Midwest have had to delay opening or cut opening hours due to the dearth of lifeguards. The Midwest’s main amusement park, Cedar Point, was forced to close two days a week for most of June due to a staff shortage. Cedar Point doubled seasonal wages to $20 an hour and offered a $500 signature bonus to get roller coasters rolling and dodgem cars crashing full time again.

Julio Cano, chief business officer of Bien Trucha Group, which owns Mexican-inspired restaurants outside of Chicago, is giving $700 to employees who refer anyone for “going home” jobs like line cook or dishwasher. Those rates now start at $15 an hour, compared to $12.50 or $13 before the pandemic.

Other businesses are suffering, too: Local banks don’t have employees and “the people who take care of the plants in one of our restaurants come in and top management come to do it,” says Kanu, who has to close his restaurants for an hour on weekends so employees can rest. instead of hourly workers.

He is concerned about the long-term impact of this “bid war”. We fight for the same very limited group of people, and we compete against them Amazon Targeting and losing our workforce to other industries.”

Jeffrey Korzenek, chief investment strategist at Fifth Third Bank, says he is “shocked” at how quickly the shortage has emerged. “I thought it would take at least until the end of this year,” he says, adding that additional unemployment insurance paid to workers unemployed during the pandemic “played an obvious role” in the shortage.

Economists say many minimum wage workers could earn as much by collecting a boosted federal and federal pandemic. unemployment insurance As much as they can by working. (Full disclosure: Some members of my family are taking advantage of extended benefits.) Many states are working to end additional unemployment benefits early.

Korzenek says there are other reasons for the labor shortage. “If you lose a job at a department store on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago and new jobs available are at Joliet [a suburb an hour away]That’s not always what works for you.” He adds that workers over the age of 65 are also reluctant to return to the workforce, or retire during the pandemic, and this plays a role in the shortage.

“But it has been a great year for teen unemployment,” he notes, noting that teens often have no unemployment benefits to fall back on, are less concerned about contracting Covid-19 than older workers and rarely have to pay for child care. The participation of 16- to 19-year-olds in the US workforce has risen from a historic low of 20.9 percent in April 2020 to 33.2 percent last month.

But Kanu says the teens he has hired often don’t want “come home” jobs like washing dishes, and cemetery staff say cemetery jobs aren’t high on the list for many young people either. Therefore, teenagers cannot solve the problem of underemployment on their own.

“I’m afraid where this will end,” Kano says. More workers may return to the market when federal unemployment benefits expire in September, “but I’m afraid we’re creating a bubble… that’s not sustainable.”

Then again, the future may surprise us. It has definitely happened before.

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