Since the world has been opening back up, I've been hearing a lot about the labor shortage. Everyone is hiring, employers are complaining about how they can't find any staff, businesses are changing hours due to staffing complications. Of course everyone and their brother has an opinion about why the shortage exists. Here's my take on the labor shortage.
A LOT OF PEOPLE DIED
To date, according to the New York Times, the death toll in the US due to COVID is 726,000. That's almost three quarters of a million people dead. A good chunk of them from the typical working age group.
PEOPLE DON'T WANT TO WORK
It's more accurate to say people are choosing not to work. Some people have chosen to remove themselves from the job market for a number of reasons. Some were laid off during the pandemic and went back to school. Some decided to continue home schooling their kids for whatever reason. Some simplified their lives, and realized they don't need as much money as they thought they did.
Typically, when I hear this reason cited, it's implying that people are choosing not to work and instead sponging off unemployment. While certainly those people are out there, there are not nearly as many as one might think. In addition, if someone can make more money on unemployment than they could make being employed, that says a lot about our job market and standard wages that needs to be reformed. We can't expect people to give up unemployment and get a job so they can live below the poverty line.
COVID ISN'T OVER ONCE THE SYMPTOMS GO AWAY
We're now seeing that many people have what is being called "long haul COVID", meaning that once the illness is over, there are long-term changes and damage done to their bodies. We know it affects many different organ systems. Respiratory, immune, endocrine, and digestive systems have all been impacted in some way. Many people who are long-haulers can't work anymore when they recover. They have to go on disability. This removes them from the job market.
EMPLOYERS ARE NOT BEING HONEST IN THEIR EMPLOYMENT ADS
I've read a number of articles where people applied for a number of jobs, went to interviews, and were offered far less than what was advertised. There are a number of excuses why: the minimum wage increase hasn't gone into effect yet, we'll make you full-time after six months, the highest wage advertised is what we would pay a manager, we give full benefits so you don't need as much money. A few articles even said that out of the huge number of applications filled out, no employers even responded.
Even if they can afford to be paid the lower rate, no one wants to work for a liar.
All of this is to say that the labor shortage is complicated. There isn't a single cause or reason we can point to and say, "If we fix this, people will go back to work." In the meantime, let's all do what we've gotten used to doing: muddle through the best we can. When you go out and the restaurant has staff issues, don't complain about how long the service takes. Understand that the employees are doing the best they can, and demand is high. I've always been an advocate of tipping generously, but it's especially important right now. And most importantly: don't be a dick. Don't abuse staff or leave bad reviews online because of slow service. The staff is doing their best, and the business doesn't need your input right now.