Local Businesses Facing a Hiring Crisis as we Enter a ‘Post-Pandemic’ Workforce

Sarah Rodriguez, Copy Editor

Although “help is wanted,” it is not often received

If you’ve gone anywhere within the past few months, you’ve likely noticed the influx of “Now Hiring” or “Help Wanted” signs in the windows of both small and large businesses. The state of the post-pandemic workforce is bleak. With the state-wide reopening, low-staffed employers are struggling to keep up with the increasing demands of consumers.

Despite the reopening of businesses and restaurants state-wide and the increase in minimum wage, for many citizens, the desire to reenter the workforce is absent. As a result, California businesses are in the midst of a hiring crisis.

There have been debates on whether or not the comfort of federal unemployment benefits are holding citizens back from reentering the workforce. Some feel that the generosity of federal benefits have enabled individuals to remain unemployed, collecting benefits that surpass the salary of a standard minimum wage job.

“There was an experiment on Wall Street Journal that compared states that decide to end federal benefits early versus states that kept federal benefits in place until September 4th, the preliminary analysis of unemployment data indicated no significant difference in the speed of unemployment rates recovery,” Dr. Kai Ding said, an Economics professor at California State University East Bay.

Despite this, “There is still truth in this idea that federal unemployment benefits are giving people less incentive to go back to work,” he continued. Another explanation for the lack of workers in today’s job market is the relocation of blue-collar workers as a result of the pandemic/COVID-19 lockdown.

“Once shutdowns began, a lot of these marginal workers that tend to go in and out of the labor force, relocated to areas with a lower cost of living such as out of state or back with parents,” Dr. Filippo Rebessi said, another CSUEB Economics professor. Now that business is beginning to resume at a normal pace, “A lot of these local companies want to rehire workers that just aren’t there anymore or no longer within reach,” Rebessi added.

East Bay’s campus is a testament to this concept. Campus locations such as Pizza Hut and Taco Bell remain unopened despite the return of in-person courses. “We see this on campus as well, a lot of students don’t come in because they moved far away and in a way, those same students could be the workers that these restaurants and companies need,” Rebessi stated.

In addition to the disparity between workers and employers in the current job market, there is also an imbalance among needed skill sets. “Part of this [hiring crisis] is due to a mismatch of needed skills in the job market, many companies are looking for experienced labor (white collar) and a lot of unemployed people right now may not be equipped with enough job experience (blue colored/manual),” Ding added.

Additionally, a significant amount of the aging workforce are retiring, leaving behind vacancies in the job market. The lack of qualified workers is in part due to this wave of retiring employees and employers. “Baby boomers are retiring so those that were born in 1930-1940 are now reaching the age of 65 or 70 years old meaning, all these skilled laborers are retiring and the remainder [of individuals searching for jobs] are unskilled, resulting in this skill mismatch within the job market,” Ding discussed.

In light of this, the state’s recovery towards its regular unemployment rates remains positively steady. In April 2020, California unemployment rates stretched to a record-breaking 16%, whereas the current rate, as of August 2021, is a solid 5.2%. “In some sense, the job market has almost fully recovered in terms of unemployment rates,” Ding said.

Looking forward, we can only hope that in addition to the return of a pre-pandemic unemployment rate, both small and large businesses find the working hands/manpower they so desperately need.