Why can’t hiring businesses fill their open jobs?


HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) – With “Now Hiring” signs plastered in multiple windows and billboards across the country, and staffing shortages still being an issue, it leaves people to wonder what’s going on.

And as businesses are struggling to fill those open positions, Marshall University Assistant Professor of Economics, Nabaneeta Biswas says we are finally seeing the long-term effects of the pandemic.  

What’s going on?  

“People seem to be choosing the quality of jobs instead of the quantity. That’s how I would interpret it. You see the hospitality industry or manufacturing industry pretty hard hit in terms of labor shortages. And these are also the industries that had to lay off their workers during the pandemic,” Biswas explains.

She says, after many got laid off in 2020, people are now looking for a sense of security, and businesses will have to comply.  

Right now, we’re seeing wages increase for the hard-to-fill positions, and Biswas says with wages increasing, we can expect to see product prices increase as well…which will cause inflation.  

What are some short-term effects? 

“Usually for restaurants – and we call this a price stickiness in economics – once they raise the price, it’s never going to go back down. It’s always going to be high. So even when the labor shortage subsides, the prices won’t change,” says Biswas.

She says the future is unclear for these industries and the shifts they’re going to have to make to accommodate the current economy. There’s a chance we could see “more mechanization” within the businesses as the current labor options become too expensive.  

What needs to change?  

“First of all, higher wages will help ease the labor shortage in some industries. And usually, the higher wages would come with some sort of worker training that the employers offer so the workers are productive enough to justify the higher wages. The other thing is flexible work arraignments. That would make a lot of people who are trying to avoid these kinds of jobs precisely because of their difficult work arrangements want to choose them again. So flexible work arrangements, flexible hours, and minimizing risk of infection – so increasing vaccination rates or expediting vaccinations,” says Biswas.

She says many people experienced working from home or flexible work hours throughout 2020 and now would prefer not the shift back into a strict 9-5, in-office shift.  

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