Driving around the rural communities and towns where I live, main streets and businesses are trying to open as best as they can. Help wanted signs are taped to windows and doors, signs are placed in the ground coming into the towns, and the internet is ripe with job postings. Many stating increased wages and benefits, but there are no takers to good jobs in the cafes and diners, small boutiques, the small town factories, and other places. These small businesses have managed to stay open during the past 18 months with little staff and are ready to bring things back to normal. But they can not do this without staff to fill the many jobs they have open. They are barely making it.
The current US unemployment rate is just below 6% and the states are averaging as low as 4% in some states and as high as almost 9% in others. It appears there are plenty of jobs in any industry or state one desires. But the applicants are not being attracted back to the employment roles. Complicating matters, the federal and state unemployment programs offer additional unemployment funds which make staying unemployed more lucrative than working a full-time job. With stimulus monies being paid over the past year, and more being discussed, coupled with other federal programs, it is easy to see why people are staying away from the workforce.
Conversations with many managers and human resource (HR) professionals reveal the same sad story. Many stores are having to shorten business hours because of labor shortages. Many small diners are raising the prices of the meals to cover the new minimum wage laws meant to bring workers back and the overtime of their current workers who are required to work when they do not materialize.
The US economy is driven by the work of its citizens, who innovate new products, build those new products, sell the products and the cycle starts again. It is a circular economy, for each product that is built another has to be built to take its place. Think of cars and the thousands, if not millions, of parts, it takes to assemble and the thousands of humans that process takes. From the end product of the car to each transmission, a gallon of paint, tires, etc., each of those products have to be replaced for use on another car. It is a trickle-down supply chain system with the human workforce involved in each step. Any interruption of the physical materials or the human workforces causes the economic system to come to a crashing halt.
As the physical material levels are fast returning to a normal state, the human workforce is not because there is no need. The need to work must be restarted, or perhaps reinvented, to bring the economy back to as close to normal as possible. While the return to normal may take time and a new normal may be realized in the process, it must restart.
“A human is the catalyst for all things.”
Dr. Lawson is an executive coach and a Professor of Economics and Strategy. He writes on business issues, education, and developing today’s modern executives. He can be found on Twitter @dplwsn and #TMIBS.