‘The shift is real’: More jobs but fewer employees create long-lasting labor shortages

SPOKANE, Wash. — Companies want to hire more people.

Spokane saw a 66-percent increase in job postings from last year to this year. The demand is there, but the workforce isn’t, according to Indeed.com.

The pandemic changed every aspect of life, and employers are feeling it. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says there was a record-breaking 10.9 million job openings in July. People are leaving their professions and finding new ways to make a living. Some baby boomers left altogether.

“The shift is real,” said Ryan Herzog, an economics professor at Gonzaga University.

He says you can’t pinpoint one reason why so many people left, but he’s expecting the lack of labor to be around for a while.

“We have labor shortages all over the place,” he said. “I don’t think anyone thing we can point to is going to magically bring in the 10,000 workers or so that we need.”

He says people may not be coming back because of COVID concerns, vaccine mandates, unemployment program benefits, or the cost of child care.

Herzog also says people who may have worked in food or service industries have found more, better-paying opportunities with gig industries. They may be driving for Doordash or Grubhub and/or delivering groceries with Instacart. He says these business models exploded during the Pandemic, and employees like the flexibility and freedom to make their own schedules and not have to be around people.

The Pandemic also shifted a lot of workers online.

Andrew Guenther used to do in-person sales at AT&T. However, he recently changed paths and works 100% from home. He loves the extra time he can spend with his wife and how productive he says he is. He also values the work-life balance.

“I think COVID definitely pushed me to look at other opportunities,” Guenther said.

H doesn’t foresee himself moving back to in-person work and says it makes him feel more secure about moving states and not having to look for a new job.

With this shift, employers have to be creative to stand out. If companies can offer flexible schedules, hybrid options or even child care resources, that can help them lure in employees. They have to think outside the box if they want to fill positions.

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