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Opinion: The US's Labor Shortage Reveals Underlying Issues

Businesses nationwide are struggling to stay open and service customers due to staffing shortages. These shortages started during and after the pandemic, and unfortunately have not shown many signs of improvement. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, at least 500,000 people disappeared from the workforce after the pandemic. This is in addition to the quarter-million of working people who passed away from the virus. In this article, we will explore some of the major causes of these labor shortages and what possible solutions might entail.

So, what exactly are some of the causes of these employment issues? There are a few as they relate to the pandemic. Many people are still suffering from lingering COVID-19 symptoms and are either still not well enough to work at all or must work reduced hours. Some working-age adults decided to retire early during the pandemic and are well-off enough that they do not need to resume working again. Some individuals who have weakened immune systems or other health issues may not feel comfortable going back into work yet. Many people who can work have chosen to stay on unemployment benefits that they started receiving during the lockdown. Lastly, many people do not want to go back to work due to vaccine requirements. These are the major reasons for staffing shortages caused by the pandemic.

Short staffing makes it very hard for businesses and organizations to run efficiently. It is not just hard on the customers who often must wait much longer to be serviced, it is also extremely stressful for the staff who often must do a lot more work at a quicker pace. To make matters worse, customers can already be difficult, and many do not have any sympathy or patience regarding the staffing shortages.

So, what might be some possible ways to fix the staffing crisis? Unfortunately, there are no quick or easy solutions, but there is still hope. Many people do not want to return to work because they are receiving unemployment benefits that are just as much or even more than they were earning for working long hours in subpar conditions. Therefore, having better work environments where employees are treated well and feel valued would be a good incentive to bring people back into the workforce. The better the work environment, the more likely employees are to stay. Opportunities for growth and promotions within the job also help to retain employees. Having better pay for employees, particularly those working in retail, fast food, and hospitality jobs, is a much bigger issue to tackle but most certainly is one of the root causes of the nationwide labor shortage. While it already does not make sense for individuals to work so hard for such little pay, it makes even less sense to do so when risking one’s own health and safety is a concern.

Perhaps the silver lining on the labor shortage in the U.S. is that it has brought to light some issues workers face that were previously ignored, such as being overworked for very little pay. While America needs to regain a strong and healthy workforce, it is equally important that the issues workers are facing that are discouraging them from returning to work are addressed.


Image Attributions

Photos by Brusk Dede and Ernie Journeys on Unsplash

Works Cited

Goda, Gopi Shah, and Evan J. Soltas. “The Impacts of Covid-19 Illnesses on Workers.” National Bureau of Economic Research, Sept. 2022, www.nber.org/papers/w30435.

Luscombe, Richard. “Covid Caused Huge Shortages in US Labor Market, Study Shows.” The Guardian, 13 Sept. 2022, www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/sep/13/us-labor-shortage-long-covid.



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