by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The nation’s bare store shelves, exorbitantly inflated prices for essential goods and services, packages arriving weeks or months late, and an alarming scarcity of skilled labor all are results of our blue-collar workforce crisis. Underlying current supply chain issues and fears of hyperinflation is a labor shortage that is seriously harming the American economy in nearly every industry.
Transportation companies are short 33,000 truckers compared to before the pandemic. Nationwide there’s a 55 percent shortage of plumbers available for work, and electricians are also in seriously short supply. Meanwhile, construction firms can’t find enough qualified workers to complete jobs. The lack of skilled laborers is already being called the “next supply chain disruption.” All told, 77 percent of manufacturers report issues getting and attracting skilled workers.
Even as labor shortages drive up wages, many who left the workforce during the pandemic have yet to return. Being able to collect the same wages — or more — while staying home as they did when at work has given them little incentive to return. Economic measures that disincentivize labor were ushered in under the guise of COVID “safety” precautions at the beginning of 2020, but dragged on even after most states reopened and a safe vaccine was readily available. Generous federal unemployment bonuses, added to state-based unemployment, left millions at home collecting government checks while more than 10 million jobs remain unfilled. Residents in blue states such as Massachusetts and California received more than $3,000 on average in monthly unemployment checks.
In addition to unemployment payments, the expanded child tax credit sends families $300 per child per month. Rental assistance programs and expanded food stamps also have been implemented by many state governments. Combine these subsidies with issues that have been complicated by the pandemic, such as paying for child care, and the desire for many to work full time is no longer there.