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Roundtable: What’s behind the labor shortage? – Galesburg Register-Mail

Roundtable: What’s behind the labor shortage? – Galesburg Register-Mail

What do you think is causing the local labor shortage? It’s easier to judge, isn’t it? I did the math. I encourage others to do so as well. Minimum wage in Illinois is currently $11 per hour. I consulted the Illinois Department of Employment Security so trust my math (St. Joseph Academy nuns were relentless about me

What do you think is causing the local labor shortage?

It’s easier to judge, isn’t it?

I did the math. I encourage others to do so as well. Minimum wage in Illinois is currently $11 per hour. I consulted the Illinois Department of Employment Security so trust my math (St. Joseph Academy nuns were relentless about me understanding math). At 40 hours per week (and with the Federal kicker of $300 per week) an $11 hourly worker that has been laid off is now making about $12.67 an hour. The key word here is laid off and not fired.

Some of you may find this outrageous that anyone makes $12.67 an hour for NOT working. You need to consider that most of this money will go back into the local economy. I would also hope that a reasonable person would not judge someone who is unemployed. It is easier to judge though, isn’t it?  All those people milking the system! How Christian of you to judge. Try to understand the circumstance of THAT person’s plight. After September 6 that Federal kicker goes away and now that unemployment “hourly” wage will go to about $5.17 an hour if my St. Joe math is right.  Wow!  Living the high life!  — Stephen Podwojski

Sometimes it pays more to stay home

There are more reasons for the labor shortage than we have space to comment on.

The easiest and most simplistic answer is that government payments for not working exceed the entry-level amounts employers are willing to pay. In other words, it pays more to stay home than to go to work, especially for recent graduates or unskilled workers.

That’s not nearly all of it.

We have a tendency to think that everyone should have a college degree and encourage our children in that direction. The “trades” (carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc.) are well paid, essential and have the advantage of no college-loan debt.

Some hiring managers have grown lazy. They look for a degree or other “qualifications.” They should look for potential, willingness to learn and work ethic. Then expect to invest something in training candidates. Apprenticeship programs can work wonders; the advantage is candidates can be trained to the employer’s “culture.”  – Charlie Gruner

Government’s fault for handing out the money

This will probably be an unpopular opinion this week, but, oh well. The government screwed over essential workers. During the pandemic I lost my job. I received the unemployment check and honestly, I got more on the checks than any employer has ever paid me, which is sad if you think about it. Some of my friends in the health field, I felt bad for them. They didn’t get any extra pay during this time and the amount I was receiving was more than some of their checks. They were putting in extra hours, risking their lives and some even got COVID. They were still getting their regular pay. So honestly, it’s the government’s fault for coming up with this money. The mindset many have after getting that is they aren’t going to work for less. If the government can pay that so can many of these businesses. — Courtney Wallace

It can’t be the $20 per hour for not working

There’s one thing we know is not causing it. People are definitely NOT refusing to work because they are making nearly $20 an hour with federally enhanced unemployment benefits. That’s ridiculous! As our president tells us, people want to work so they would not be taking the money to stay home.

They are probably staying home because they can’t get vaccinated. They don’t want to risk getting sick. After all, the vaccine is so scarce that no one has been able to get it. Maybe next year when it becomes generally available.

Our government knows best and the plans of bureaucrats never have unintended consequences so we know that the huge amounts of money and red tape that Congress rushed through with no forethought and no way to pay for it cannot be the reason for this.

Nope, sorry, I can’t think of a thing that would be causing it. — Harry Bulkeley

Several factors reducing local workforce

There are several causes, some structural and some specifically because of the COVID shutdown. First, our local labor pool is diminishing, as the population both declines and becomes older. Workers retire or leave the area for better employment and educational opportunities. New jobs seem to be largely in service professions, with lower salaries than harder-to-find positions in manufacturing or skilled trades. Many people prefer to commute to Peoria and the Quad Cities to take positions with better pay. During the COVID lockdown, many people lost or were forced to leave jobs to take care of children. Many of those reasons are still in force. 

Right now, labor shortages appear to be most acute in service occupations like restaurants where frequent interactions with the public are necessary. With the virus still active, people are understandably reluctant to put themselves and their families at risk, particularly for low wages or uncertain working hours. Others may have used their time off to reconsider career interests and options and, at least until the fall, the extended unemployment insurance allows them the rare opportunity to be more selective in deciding what jobs to apply for. — David Amor

Unemployment paying higher than minimum wage

When lives were disrupted by the lockdown, people found ways to survive without their regular jobs. We don’t fully understand how they managed this, or how they dealt with medical bills, child care or even shopping. COVID relief bills were shamefully delayed by partisan wrangling, but current unemployment payments are slightly higher than what minimum wage workers can earn at one of the many jobs now available. 

After a year of government warnings about COVID, some worry whether it is safe to return to the workplace. Some want to wait and see, and some have found better uses for their time.

I understand this. When younger, I worked at a variety of minimum wage jobs. These experiences were valuable, but they were also incentives to finish my university degrees.

Unemployment benefits won’t last forever, and not everyone qualifies. Long-term planning should include finding a better job than the last one. — William Urban

Don’t ignore the impact of childcare costs

I don’t suppose that any of us will have a precisely accurate answer; I don’t think there probably is one. There are so many variables both among individuals and in terms of different kinds of employment. But I definitely don’t think it’s as simple as “People just don’t want to work.” Many people may be uneasy about working in food service, indoors with necessarily unmasked people not knowing who is or isn’t vaccinated, or in bars where people project their voices (and their vapors) with more force. Of course unemployment benefits make a difference. If I were a woman with children at home, returning to work would mean paying a large share of my salary for childcare, but if I could stay home with my children, not pay childcare and have more disposable income, I would certainly do that. Daycare costs parents more than instate tuition in half the country. For many parents daycare is their biggest cost in the first years of their child’s life. — Laurie Muelder

The Community Roundtable runs each Friday and is made up of local writers. Community writers answer one question each week in 150 words or fewer. 

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