Drive down any main thoroughfare and you can’t miss the signs that employers are facing a severe shortage of workers. Businesses have gone beyond the traditional “now hiring” signs and banners to include information about higher starting wages, bonuses and paid time off as ways to attract prospective employees. But for many, it’s still not enough.
For multiple reasons, demand for employees is higher than the supply, especially for retailers and restaurants. Those were the two areas hit hardest by the pandemic, with many laying off employees. But now that those jobs have returned, where are the workers? Based on conversations and my reading, I have a few ideas.
Women dropped out of the workforce at higher rates during the pandemic either because their job disappeared or they needed to stay home and care for their children when schools and day cares closed. Perhaps next fall if schools are back in session full time, some of these employees will return to the workforce.
Some employees working in retail and hospitality who lost their jobs during the pandemic used that time to train for other, better-paying jobs. Since no one knew how long the pandemic would last or how long businesses would be closed, workers took advantage of training programs, such as the gener8tor Upskilling program, to find a new career.
Changing demographics. A lot more people are leaving the workforce right now than entering it as baby boomers retire. This problem will only grow worse in the years to come since demographics show a declining birth rate. Making it easier for people to emigrate and work in the United States is one way this issue could be addressed. In addition, some workers may decide to work past age 65 to help their employers.
Teens are busy. For many retailers and restaurants, high school students are a key part of their workforce pool. With year-round sports, extracurriculars and rigorous academic schedules, more teens can’t find time in their schedule to get a part-time job or find a job that’s flexible around their other activities.
With so many causes, finding a single answer to the workforce shortage isn’t easy. It will require businesses to work with alliances, such as NEW Manufacturing Alliance, and postsecondary institutions to look at the issue and develop solutions. It’s definitely not a problem employers can solve on their own.