The author is an FT special columnist

I learned a valuable lesson from the coronavirus pandemic: Don’t waste time predicting the future.

Just as I never thought that I would spend a year at home, nor did I anticipate what would happen with the relaxation of restrictions on the pandemic in the United States. I think many Americans have difficulty finding jobs after the lockdown; on the contrary, jobs are trying to find people. Every aspect of life and death after the pandemic has been affected by labor shortages.

The cemetery where my late mother and brother were buried, and the cemetery where I will lie one day, sent an email last week, apologizing for the tall grass and weeds in the grave, saying that they could not hire enough workers to come. mowing the lawn.

When my family ventured out at a local Korean barbecue restaurant to eat our first meal without a mask, we found that there were only two busy staff serving dozens of diners (memo to the chef: we have never eaten Garlic pork chop).

Due to the lack of lifeguards, some municipal swimming pools in the Midwest had to postpone their opening or shorten their working hours. Due to staff shortages, Cedar Point, the premier amusement park in the Midwest, had to be closed two days a week for most of June. Cedar Point doubled its seasonal salary to $20 an hour and provided a signing bonus of $500 to make its roller coaster roll and avoid the car crashing again at full time.

Julio Cano, the chief commercial officer of the Bien Trucha Group, which owns a Mexican-style restaurant outside of Chicago, will provide $700 to employees who recommend anyone to do “logistics” work, such as a chef or a dishwasher. Prices now start at US$15 per hour, compared to US$12.50 or US$13 before the pandemic.

Cano had to close his restaurant for an hour on the weekend afternoon so that employees could rest. He said other companies were also affected: there were no employees in the local bank. Not an hourly worker”.

He is worried about the long-term impact of this “biding war”. “We are fighting for the same very limited crowd, with Amazon And Target and drain our workforce to other industries,” he said.

Jeffrey Korzenik, chief investment strategist at Fifth Third Bank, said he was “shocked” by the speed of the shortage. “I think it will not be completed until at least the end of this year,” he said, adding that the additional unemployment insurance paid to unemployed workers during the pandemic “clearly played a role in the shortage.”

Economists say that many minimum-wage workers can earn the same amount of income by collecting enhanced state and federal epidemics Unemployment insurance They can pass work. (Full disclosure: some of my family members are receiving expanded benefits). Many states are ending increased unemployment benefits early.

But Korzenic said there are other reasons for the labor shortage. “If you lose a job in a department store on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile and the new job opportunity is in Joliet [a suburb an hour away], This is not always appropriate. He added that workers over 65 are unwilling to re-enter the labor market or retire during the pandemic, which played a role in the shortage.

“But it’s a great year for youth unemployment,” he pointed out, noting that teenagers usually don’t have unemployment benefits they can rely on, and they are less worried about getting sick due to Covid-19 than older workers. , And rarely need to pay for childcare. The labor force participation rate in the US for 16 to 19-year-olds rose from a historical low of 20.9% in April 2020 to 33.2% last month.

But Kano said that most of the teenagers he hires don’t want “backstage” work such as washing dishes, and cemetery staff say that cemetery work is not the first choice for many young people. So young people cannot solve the shortage of workers by themselves.

“I am worried that this will end,” Kano said. When the federal unemployment benefit ends in September, more workers may return to the market, “but I worry that we are creating a bubble… this is not sustainable”.

Again, the future may surprise us. It must have happened before.

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