(WETM) – The workforce shortage is a combination of several factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, a shift in the economy, and changes in the workforce demographics, experts say.
Demographers have predicted this large worker shortage for two or three decades and the pandemic expedited the change.
“This is not a surprise. We have Baby Boomers that are leaving the workforce, and we have a labor force participation rate that is dropping and has been dropping for a number of years,” Judy McKinney Cherry, CEcD, executive director of Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development.
In June, 850,000 jobs were added in the United States, but unemployment rose to 5.9%. Businesses are hiring, especially as the country continues to reopen and return to normal. The positions they are offering are not being filled because of numerous reasons, including workers being selective about their jobs.
“They have these new skills and don’t want to go back to that old job,” Brad Treat, program director for Sothern Tier Start-Up Alliance, said. “Broadband access has really been able to shrink the world. People are looking at their workplace and saying you know I get a lot of work done on my computer.”
For other demographics, child care and at-home learning provided more challenges to going back to work.
“We’re seeing women in particular that have historically bolstered our labor force. Around the country, we have not seen them bounce back for a number of reasons. Childcare is one issue,” Cherry continued.
Biden Administration critiques blame unemployment benefits, which experts say play a part in the problem, but only for certain jobs. This is a larger, international worker shortage for industrialized nations. Countries like Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom face the same problems.
Baby Boomers are leaving the workforce earlier than expected. The Silver Tsunami is causing problems for employers, who are losing workers. Population charts show a dip in the generations following the Boomers, which shows that the workforce is not being replenished as they leave.
“They’ve worked for 39 years. They’ve only changed jobs maybe two or three times. The new workers are looking for a work-life balance and on average are in a job for only two and a half years,” Cherry continued.
Flexible work hours and mentoring programs with younger workers could be a solution to keep Baby Boomers in the workforce.