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Posts Tagged ‘Labor Shortage’

Doug Casey on the Labor Shortage and other Disturbing Distortions…

Posted by M. C. on May 20, 2021

Are millions going to be kicked out of their apartments and houses? Does this mean we’re going to have a new wave of homeless people? Or will the State just take over their obligations, so we have overtly socialized housing? The small landlords, in particular, will be hurt worst. I’m not sure what the way out is. The country has been painted into a corner.

I’m shocked that I don’t see any of this being discussed anywhere. The country is sleepwalking into a living nightmare, and we’re just scratching the surface of all the problems that will have to be confronted in the years to come.

by Doug Casey

International Man: According to the recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) jobs report, only 266,000 new jobs were created in April—well below the one million new jobs that was expected.

At the same time, American businesses are desperately seeking to fill job openings which they can’t fill. A survey by the National Federation of Independent Business found that 44% of small businesses had jobs they couldn’t fill, which is a record high.

What’s going on with these seemingly contradictory trends?

Doug Casey: First of all, I don’t trust the government’s statistics. Some are surely better than others, but especially when we’re looking at monetary and economic numbers, it’s increasingly apparent that the US government’s statistics are only marginally more reliable than those of the Argentine government at this point. As the US is increasingly politicized, they’ll deteriorate further, fudged and adjusted for propaganda purposes.

Eventually, they’ll approach the inaccuracy of those in the old Soviet Union. It’s understandable, I suppose, because people believe in, and love to quote, that old saw of Franklin Roosevelt’s: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” It’s nonsense, of course; you can ignore reality, but you can’t ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.

The government likes to publish happy, optimistic numbers for lots of reasons. A belief that economic health is based on psychological smiley faces is prominent among them. Unfortunately, optimism can blow away as easily as a pile of feathers in a hurricane.

That said, there are huge distortions that have been cranked into the economy because of the ongoing COVID hysteria, compounded by the government’s reaction to it. It appears there are over 16 million workers collecting unemployment bennies, while there are about 8.5 million job openings, 13% more than in the before times. How is that possible? Lots of fast-food chains are paying $15 an hour, plus recruiting bonuses—and that’s for unskilled labor. There are loads of highly-paid manufacturing and construction jobs going begging. Anyone who wants a job can have one.

There are several reasons for this.

One is that COVID hysteria is slacking off somewhat but still in high gear. A high proportion of the population wear masks when driving alone, walking alone, or even participating in a Zoom call (presumably to virtue signal). Needless to say, these types are afraid to go to work or be among other people. They want to self-isolate out of fear. They won’t work, or will work less, from hypochondria. Those that will work have to be induced with hazard pay.

Meanwhile, a combination of state unemployment benefits, $300 Federal unemployment, and Federal stimmy checks means that a lot of them can take home more not working than working.

It’s easier to stay home, get up late, binge-watch Netflix, and collect tax-free money than commute to work. After a year, it can turn into an ingrained bad habit.

International Man: Since the beginning of the pandemic, the US government has been sending stimulus checks to Americans—mostly to those who experienced no reduction in their income or job loss. This flurry of free money has led to people choosing not to work.

What’s your take on this?

Doug Casey: You get what you pay for. And if you pay people to stay at home, they’ll do that. People are consuming more than ever. Retail sales are way up because of all the funny money the government is practically helicopter dumping, while a lot less people are producing. This is a guaranteed formula for economic disaster. And it’s not just an economic failure but a moral failure.

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How Trillions in Newly Printed Money Created a Labor Shortage | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on May 5, 2021

“In our money printing–based economy, printed money is being substituted for production. Thus, millions of workers can stay home while demand remains steady, or even increases. Idle workers still have a lot of dollars to spend. Demand continues upward even as production falls.”

Ryan McMaken

If you’re tired of binge-watching Netflix, there are likely a few restaurants in your neighborhood who would love to hire you. A job might help relieve the boredom.

On the other hand, why work when one can just be one of the more than 6 million former workers now collecting “pandemic unemployment insurance”? Those millions are in addition to the 3.6 million former workers collecting ordinary unemployment insurance. For many workers, these benefits now total $300 per week. In March, President Biden extended the program until September.

And then there are the many millions more who have recently received a piece of the third round of stimulus payments. All three bailouts combined to total around $460 billion in checks mailed out to Americans.

So, it shouldn’t be an enormous shock when we find out that many employers are having trouble finding workers. One McDonald’s restaurant is offering bonuses just for showing up for an interview. One eatery is offering a $400 sign-on bonus.

Nor is it just the service industry that can’t find workers. Construction employers are reporting shortages, as are trucking operations. The NBC affiliate out of Green Bay, Wisconsin, reports that the price of gas may increase because so few tank truck drivers can be found. The problem is “a lack of qualified drivers.”

There are no employees available in California. We are paying dishwashers $21 to start. The two main reasons people tell me they won’t work: 1. They are making enough on unemployment and would rather not work; 2. With schools closed, they can’t pay someone to watch their children— Chef Andrew Gruel (@ChefGruel) April 29, 2021

Even government employers—who tend to offer more job security and a lot more vacation time than private firms—are offering extra cash to get more applicants in the door.

Millions of Workers Have Also Left the Labor Force

An endless stream of unemployment checks isn’t the only thing fueling the worker shortage. Record numbers of Americans are leaving the labor force entirely.

In January 2020, 96 million American adults were outside the labor force. That shot up to 104 million in April of last year. But as businesses opened up and increased hours, there were still 100 million Americans not in the labor force. In other words, over the past year an additional 4 million workers exited the labor force. These people are not actively looking for work, are not on unemployment, and are not factored into the unemployment rate.

Of the 100 million adult Americans who are out of the labor force, 6.5 million say they “want a job now.” Yet, for whatever reason they’re not collecting any wages, even in a time when we’re being told anyone can walk into a restaurant and get immediately hired. 

In other words: yes, millions of Americans are being paid to stay home, but that’s not the whole picture. Millions more have given up looking for work altogether. 

The Illusion of GDP Growth

This contrasts with the rosy picture of employment that the regime is now trying to paint. For example, we’re being told that the employment situation is excellent because the headline unemployment rate has fallen over the past year from 14.4 percent to 6.2 percent. That’s certainly a big improvement, but it also suggests that the number of unemployed job seekers remains high. An unemployment rate of 6.2 percent, after all, puts unemployment at a higher level than anything experienced between 1994 and 2008. It’s not exactly a “low” rate, and it’s nearly double the unemployment rate of April 2019 (3.3 percent). The narrative of an employment boom is so sketchy that even Fed personnel—i.e., Minneapolis Fed president Neel Kashkari—admits the unemployment rate is more like 9.5 percent.

And then there’s the unconvincing overall narrative of economic growth. As noted last week by Daniel Lacalle, one should naturally expect big increases in GDP when massive amounts of monetary stimulus have been pumped into the economy. GDP is based largely on spending, and spending goes up as trillions of new dollars are printed. Lacalle writes:

There is an overly optimistic consensus view about the speed and strength of the United States’ recovery that is contradicted by facts. It is true that the United States recovery is stronger than the European or Japanese one, but the macrodata shows that the euphoric messages about aggregate GDP growth are wildly exaggerated.

Of course gross domestic product is going to rise fast, with estimates of 6 percent for 2021. It would be alarming if it did not after a massive chain of stimuli of more than 12 percent of GDP in fiscal spending and $7 trillion in Federal Reserve balance sheet expansion. This is a combined stimulus that is almost three times larger than the 2008 crisis one, according to McKinsey. The question is, What is the quality of this recovery?

The answer is: extremely poor. The United States real growth excluding the increase in debt will continue to be exceedingly small. No one can talk about a strong recovery when industry capacity utilization is at 74 percent, massively below the level of 80 percent at which it was before the pandemic. Furthermore, labor force participation rate stands at 61.5 percent, significantly below the precovid level and stalling after bouncing to 62 percent in September. Unemployment may be at 6 percent, but it is still almost twice as large as it was before the pandemic. Continuing jobless claims remain above 3.7 million in April. Weekly jobless claims remain above 500,000 and the total number of people claiming benefits in all programs—state and federal combined—for the week ending March 27 decreased by 1.2 million to 16.9 million.

These figures must be put in the context of the unprecedented spending spree and the monetary stimulus. Yes, the recovery is better than the eurozone’s thanks to a fast and efficient vaccination rollout and the dynamism of the United States business fabric, but the figures show that a relevant amount of the subsequent stimulus plans have simply perpetuated overcapacity, kept zombie firms that had financial issues before covid-19 alive, and bloated the government structural deficit and mandatory spending.

A Temporary Labor Bubble

So why the labor shortage?

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Contact Ryan McMaken

Ryan McMaken (@ryanmcmaken) is a senior editor at the Mises Institute. Send him your article submissions for the Mises Wire and Power&Market, but read article guidelines first. Ryan has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado and was a housing economist for the State of Colorado. He is the author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.

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