Joe Raedle / Getty Images
Joe Raedle / Getty Images
At a time when millions of Americans are unemployed, businessman Bill Martin has a head-scratching problem: He has plenty of jobs, but few people are willing to take them.
“I keep hearing about all the unemployed,” Martin says. “I certainly can not find any of these people.”
Martin runs MA Industries, a plastics manufacturing company in Peachtree City, Ga. The company manufactures products used in the medical industry – specifically in things like coronavirus testing and vaccine production and development.
But as he struggles to keep up with demand, Martin finds it almost impossible to find new workers.
His difficulties focus on a peculiar problem in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic.
Some industries thrive and are eager to hire, which should be welcome in an economy that has only recovered just over half of the 22 million jobs lost during the coronavirus pandemic.
The problem is that many of these openings are found in industries that require personal work, such as construction, delivery services, or warehousing – exactly the types of jobs that are now avoided by many Americans in the midst of a frightening pandemic.
Martin says he has tried everything to hire workers. His company has offered higher salaries and even sent good old-fashioned “We Hire” signs.
Julia Pollak, a work environment economist at the ZipRecruiter workplace, says Martin is not alone in fighting to find workers.
Most job seekers, she says, are looking for teleworking. The problem is that these are not the vacancies right now.
In fact, only 1 in 10 job ads in the ZipRecruiter market offer teleworking as an option, she says.
“There is this huge gap between the kinds of conditions under which people are prepared to work and the kinds of conditions that they actually find in the jobs that are available,” Pollak says.
It leads to a discrepancy in filling jobs, and it contributes to the painful, slow recovery in jobs.
“We are 10 million jobs in the hole,” she points out. “So ideally, what you want to see is the number of vacancies that need to be much higher to compensate.”
For many workers, there is an understandable fear of getting sick and then infecting children or other family members at home.
“A pandemic is a shock both for the demand for labor and for the supply of labor, and it is really a big shock for the labor supply,” says Pollak. “There are many, many people who have retired and decide to wait this year and get back to work when conditions are right.”
It could continue to leave business owner Martin in a bind, especially because his products could make a difference in the fight against the pandemic.
“We’re talking about job growth,” he says. “But if no one wants to do it, it’s going to be a problem.”
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