Shortage of employees? Here’s *a* reason why.

I made the mistake of going down the comments section on an article about how it’s increasingly difficult to get people for jobs in this market. Yeah, y’all that are some special snowflakes who think people don’t want to work are not seeing what parents are seeing. Also, this is “a” reason, not an overall far reaching analysis of economic factors.

Prior to the pandemic, roughly 4% of people working age were unemployed and looking for work. We’ll call it 5% for this because math later will be easier.

The past year and a half have effectively taken parent couples who can’t afford private education, sitters, or who have family they can count on in a pinch, and turned them into – I’m not exactly sure what to call us, but if I were unemployed or looking for a job right now I could not, without my wife quitting her job, be what was considered a reliable on-site employee. I also would require the services of yet another person roughly a quarter of the time so… yeah

Can I show up? Depends on whether my kid’s been kicked out of school for COVID exposure that day. Can I work hard? Yup. Do I have reliable transportation? Yup. But I can’t even assume week to week that the school is going to be open. Hell, nearby school districts are closed until after Labor Day (10 days total I think,) just to try and cut down on Covid cases causing half of the parents, I’m assuming, to bring their kid to work or find somewhere to care for them.

I’d say most working class parents of school aged children are seeing this.

Just in my kid’s class three students in 10 days were dropped off at school with very obvious COVID-19 signs by parents who just had to work or get fired. In each case 3-4 additional children were exposed for over 15 minutes and subsequently were kicked for 10 days, or 7 if they had a negative PCR test at 5 days in. Those three parents’ choices to drop obviously sick kids off took out 12 kids for a week. Most people don’t have backup instant potential COVID-19 daycare. Third time was a charm, we got a kid at home in a state that banned remote education (no COVID, because there hasn’t been any school transmission in our school).

Then we got to sit in 96 degree weather for three hours during a workday to get the family tested.

This is happening everywhere. Millions of parents cannot plan for anything. Literally if I started a job in August, with today being September 1st, I would have been out unable to show up to work over a quarter of the work month. We’ve also got the looming winter Covid-19 surge that will be coming, and expect school to go remote at that point as there still won’t be vaccine approval for children.

On to the math…

OK, 5% unemployment

157.54 million Americans were employed as of 2019. We’ll recall 2019 when there weren’t “now hiring” signs every 2 feet. That left about 8 million people unemployed looking for work. A lot of them are unemployed for reasons, but let’s assume they’re all the right candidate for every job.

Of the 157.54 million US workers (which we’ll assume most families are two income these days,) 63.1 million have children living at home under the age of 18. For purposes of spitballing an estimate, let’s say half of them have a kid that if kicked from school or daycare have to have a parent leave work, grab kiddo, and come up with a plan. That’s a pool of 31.6 million parents but I’m calling it 31 million because I’m lazy.

Go ahead and divide that by 2 as let’s assume one parent is flexible. So 15.5 million are now at the mercy of COVID scheduling.

Let’s assume that all the unemployed come in to fill the jobs the parents can’t and we’re left with a “reliable” working population of -7.5 million from 2019 levels. BTW, I’m not even talking real reliability, I’m talking what *was* considered a reliable employee. Just in 2020 – 3 million mothers had to drop out of the workforce. That number has been rising although we won’t have a good idea until 2022. That doesn’t include the parents/mothers who had to cut back significantly which necessitated new “now hiring” signs to pick up slack.

None of these numbers include the 700,000 US COVID deaths (which is a little hard to calculate who was employed and not, but maybe quarter to half a million?) 3 million Americans on rehab for months post hospitalization who are unable to work, and that fast food restaurants are paying living wages currently.

There’s a huge available in person worker shortage at the moment, mostly because there wasn’t a huge surplus of people to jobs prior to the pandemic and now the parents (mostly mothers,) forced out of the labor market due to childcare concerns.

You can whittle my numbers down I’m sure, but throw in that due to the shuttering in 2020 we lost a lot of non-legal workers as well, created a mass of new online employment that isn’t brick and mortar, and yeah.

I’m sure it’s all the people don’t want to work however. Your explanation makes so much sense. /sarcasm

Paul King

Paul King lives in Nashville Tennessee with his wife, two daughters and cats. He writes for Pocketables, theITBaby, and is an IT consultant along with doing tech support for a film production company.