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We’re right in the middle of the worst shortage of workers in modern times. Where did millions of American workers go? That’s a great mystery that remains without an answer. With each passing month, thousands more workers simply vanish from the system. But all over the country, we can see “help wanted” signs as businesses scramble to hire new personnel and resume their normal operations. The number of people currently employed is still close to four million below the peak of the health crisis last year. So what has really happened to all of those extra workers? Before you start thinking that they’re probably unemployed, recent data shows that this isn’t what’s happening.
Unemployment claims are at the lowest level in decades. Even though seasonal adjustments and health-crisis-induced distortions can have an impact on official figures, economists are saying that today’s low level of unemployment is not as rosy as it seems. It is not an indication of a strong and resilient labor market, but it can actually underscore that we have a weaker labor market, given that there are fewer participants helping businesses to provide goods and services for consumers. The labor market is facing a severe crisis, and our economic growth is on the line.
Over the past couple of years, millions upon millions of workers have completely disappeared from the system and never came back, even after government stimulus programs have expired. As a consequence, this lack of workers is impacting all of our major industries and sectors. For instance, some of the largest banks in the United States are closing thousands of branches around the nation due to a shortage of staff members. The fresh round of closures has already started to speak anger, frustration, and confusion among customers. Banks are telling us that if your local branch has closed recently, it may be quite a while before it opens again.
The chaos happening in our healthcare sector right now is even more alarming. Staffing shortages are pushing some hospitals to the brink of financial ruin. Thousands of hospitals around the country are having an extremely hard time delivering basic services right in the middle of this new upsurge of virus cases. The number of qualified workers has been steadily declining, and the cost of hiring replacements is pushing some facilities straight into bankruptcy.
In a recent Bloomberg report, analysts of the sector are telling us that the healthcare profession is suffering its own Great Resignation, and with each passing week, more and more hospitals are falling into deep financial distress just as a winter wave of the virus emerges. That’s what has happened in the Watsonville Community Hospital on California’s Central Coast. The facility’s costs became too much to bear, and at the beginning of this month, the hospital filed for bankruptcy.
Unfortunately, we can’t say this crisis comes as a surprise to anyone. For years, healthcare workers have been struggling with chronic underpayment and exceedingly long work hours, and to make things worse, the vaccine mandates caused the lay-off of thousands of professionals before being annulled late last month.
And the situation is likely to get worse because many hospital staff members are threatening to quit their jobs in the coming months. A recent survey conducted by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses found that staffing shortages are about to intensify as two-thirds of nurses in the country said that their experiences during the health crisis have prompted them to consider leaving the field. Meanwhile, the air travel industry is also suffering from serious staffing shortages.
During the past week, many airlines experienced a nightmare scenario as millions of holiday travelers crowded airports, but a lack of enough workers led to mass flight cancellations. The new wave of disruptions comes after roughly 1,000 flights into, out of, or within the US were canceled on Christmas and more than 3,000 were delayed. This is another crisis that isn’t going to be solved any time soon. We have been losing people at an extremely alarming pace, and the resurgence of the virus is making many professionals afraid of coming back to their posts.
Our entire society has already started to fall apart all around us, and we have only started to feel the impacts of that. We have just gotten to a stage where even our most basic services are starting to falter. And when it comes to 2022, we should expect for the worse because our ongoing crises are only aggravating and our leaders remain asleep.