Our Chicago: Labor shortage

ByKay Cesinger WLS logo
Sunday, September 19, 2021
Our Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) -- You've probably seen the help wanted signs. Or you may have found that a favorite restaurant has cut its hours.

Some businesses say they're having a difficult time hiring enough people to operate as usual.

Even as some raise their hourly pay or offer incentives.

Part 1

Part 2

What's behind this staffing shortage and is it impacting our economy? There's several factors says Brian Phelan, associate professor of economics at DePaul University, "There's at least three reasons why workers have been hesitant to reenter the labor force," he says all three relate to the pandemic, "The first is that the pandemic closed schools and it closed childcare centers. And so it increased the amount of work that needs to be done in a household. So some individuals who had previously been working simply don't have the time to be working outside the house. The second reason is that, of course, working increases the likelihood that you'll be exposed to Covid and so, in some sense, working is riskier. And so some workers may be hesitant to reenter the labor force just because they're concerned about getting sick. The third reason is that essentially the pandemic changed what we did with our time. We suddenly started spending a lot less money and doing different things with our time and some workers just may be not wanting to reenter the labor force. They may prefer to keep things as they are." So what will it take to get people back to work? "Certainly higher wages is always something that's going to entice more people back. But it isn't just wages," says Phelan, "Job amenities matter quite a bit. Flexibility, consistent scheduling, paid sick time. So increasing worker benefits could potentially be a more effective strategy than simply increasing wages."

Todd Maisch President and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce says, "All you have to do is drive around your local community and see how many help wanted signs there are and know that this is a different labor environment. People can't find labor to come in and take jobs. And consequently you see hours getting shortened, you've seen the fact that people aren't open for lunch anymore when they would have before when they had had enough workers."