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National labor shortage impacts economy

National labor shortage impacts economy National labor shortage impacts economy

Employers competing with government benefits scramble to fill job openings

In response to a nationwide worker shortage, this June the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched “America Works”, an initiative that advocates federal and state policy changes aimed at getting more people to work.

Job openings increased by nearly a million to 9.3 million on the last day of April, the Labor Department said in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS report.

Recent reports say that employers are scrambling for ways to fill their open positions, even as 3.5 million Americans were still on weekly unemployment benefits in April, according to the JOLTS report, and roughly 16.9 million Americans were receiving some form of government unemployment benefit.

While the numbers sound contradictory, it means the U.S. is experiencing a labor shortage at the same time as a high unemployment rate.

According to a June 8 article appearing in the Wall Street Journal, “The mismatch between labor supply and demand was especially acute in construction, where hires declined by 107,000 even as job openings increased by 23,000.“ A recent survey of local chambers of commerce found that 90 percent of businesses in their area said it is “difficult” to hire workers and over 60 percent said it was “very difficult.”

Many industries are being affected by

2021 Service Industry News summer survey indicates alternative sanitation systems are increasingly popular and used all over the country. — Thanks to all of our readers who participated in this year’s survey; we could not have written this story without your help. — See story on page 8. the labor shortage, including agriculture, education, manufacturing, healthcare, hospitality, service, computer software and construction.

According to Neil Bradley, Chief Policy Officer for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who spoke at the organization’s recent summit, a survey of the commercial construction industry shows that 88 percent of contractors are having difficulty finding workers. Fifty-six percent of contractors report challenges meeting project schedule requirements, with 35 percent having to turn down jobs because they don’t have enough employees to do the work.

While finding skilled workers has been a challenge for contractors in the construction industry since before the pandemic, it now coincides with worsening labor shortages across many industries.

Bradley said America is facing a double-dose of workforce challenges: there are too many people without jobs, and there are too many jobs without skilled people to fill them.

Many point to unemployment benefits and the $300 a-week bonus benefits currently being paid out to millions of Americans.

We are paying people not to work, they say.

That’s what Gary Crayton, CEO of Pool Troopers, headquartered in Tampa, Florida thinks.

“In the pool industry, we’re happy to have hard-working employees at any stage of their career. But with what is going on recently, the federal government is effectively competing with us for these employees and will pay them to sit on the couch. I’ve been in the industry for forty years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Crayton said.

Crayton says he’s thankful the subsidies are coming to an end, but it is likely too late to salvage this season since the best time to add new accounts is April through June. Unfortunately, without finding new employees, Pool Troopers couldn’t add new accounts.

“It’s been a double whammy – we weren’t replacing clients who left and then we couldn’t service all the remaining clients we had, and that’s a painful thing in the pool industry. I’ve talked to over 120 pool companies in the last six months, and they all tell eerily similar stories in every region of the country. I haven’t heard any area saying that they don’t have a labor issue,” Crayton said. “Our industry has a lot of things going against us right now – we have chemical shortages, we have labor shortages, we have parts shortages, the manufacturers can’t get raw materials, we can’t buy trucks if want to grow because there’s a semi-conductor chip shortage.”

Crayton says he’s concerned about the damage this will do to the pool professionals’ reputations because a lot of pool pros can’t meet demand, can’t meet expectations on the service level, and can’t fix things that are broken because there are no parts.

“We have tremendous backlogs, which is great, but we can’t service those demands in a timely manner so those clients will have to go whole seasons, whole years, without getting those pools or services or parts that they want,” Crayton said.

Hopefully, at least the worker shortage aspect of the situation may begin to rectify itself after Labor Day, the federal cutoff date for the benefit program, and even sooner in the 26 states that are ending participation in the program before the September 6 cutoff.

However, the new America Works program launched by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce relies on an altogether different premise than government subsidies for the current worker shortage.

In their words: “The worker shortage is real—and it’s getting worse by the day,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne Clark said. “American businesses of every size, across every industry, in every state are reporting unprecedented challenges filling open jobs. The worker shortage is a national economic emergency, and it poses an imminent threat to our fragile recovery and America’s great resurgence.”

The U.S. Chamber is advocating for— and rallying the business community to push for—federal and state policy changes that will help train more Americans for in-demand jobs, remove barriers to work, and double the number of visas available for legal immigrants. And the U.S. Chamber Foundation is expanding its most impactful employerled workforce and job training programs and launching new efforts to connect employers to undiscovered talent.

Through the America Works Agenda, the U.S. Chamber is calling for:

• Doubling the cap on employmentbased visas, doubling the quota on H-1B and H-2B visas and implementing other reforms to the legal immigration system to help employers meet demand for high­demand jobs in labor-strapped sectors.

• Growing federal investments in employer-led job education and training programs.

• Expanding access to childcare for working parents.

Employer-led training programs include the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Talent Pipeline Management program— an employer-led job training initiative currently working with more than 2,000 employers in 37 state. The program will expand to a total of 42 states by 2023 and later this year will launch a new online learning platform to reach and support even more employers and education partners across America.

Programs such as these may go some way towards finally addressing a longstanding worker shortage in construction and related fields, which nation-wide had 357,000 construction job openings in April, according to the Associated General Contractors labor report.

In the private sector, numerous training programs are being implemented to expand the skilled worker base.

One interesting program is being created through a new partnership between Home Depot and the Girl Scouts, who are together developing a fall program to offer training in skilled trades to girls, which could help address a lack of gender and racial diversity and a shortage of workers in the field.

This coming fall, 300 girls fromAtlanta, Denver and Houston — 100 from each area — will participate in this program.

According to Shannon Gerber, the Executive Director of the Home Depot Foundation, “the workshops will provide hands-on experience with carpentry and other building construction skills.”

The workshops will be led by women, and they will also offer scholarships which could help girls who are interested in pursuing a career in the industry.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, 11% of construction workers and 27% of architecture and engineering professionals were women. Similar trends can be seen across the board for blue collar work, clearly indicating that women are an untapped source of labor.

With post-pandemic programs such as these, there may soon be a light at the end of the skilled worker shortage that has plagued such industries for years.

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