Mike Rowe Calls High Unemployment a ‘Matter of National Security’

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo by Paul Archuleta/Getty Images)

You don’t have to be an economist to know about the current labor shortage that America is facing. Right now, nearly every industry – from restaurants to airlines –  is understaffed. This shortage is especially evident in the logistics industry. We see supply chain issues as a part of this shortage on a nearly daily basis. Mike Rowe is a man who keeps an eye on America’s workforce. What he sees today is distressing.

Recently, Mike Rowe appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight to talk about the labor shortage, its causes, and what it means for America. Rowe started talking about the issue in broad strokes. “This is no longer a matter of a skills gap or a few million people unemployed and employers frustrated because of the mismatch of skills. This is a matter of national security, I think because it goes right to our identity.”

Thirteen years ago, Rowe started the mikeroweWORKS Foundation. The foundation pairs skilled workers with jobs and promotes learning trades as well as the value of skilled labor. During the interview, he compared unemployment issues from then and now. “When I started that foundation 13 years ago on Labor Day, we had record-high unemployment.” Mike Rowe went on to say that the unemployment rate climbed daily, but he saw help-wanted signs everywhere. Back then, there were 2.3 million open jobs. Now, we’re looking at 11 million unfilled positions.

Mike Rowe on the Cause for the Labor Shortage

Mike Rowe said that the current unemployment rate isn’t just about money. He thinks that our overall relationship with work is to blame. He’s quick to point out that this isn’t a partisan issue. However, he admits it feels like one because “everything today is very political.” But, he says the ongoing skills gap shouldn’t be a political issue.

Mike Rowe has friends on both sides of the aisle. His friends on the left blame the labor shortage on greedy employers. On the other hand, his right-leaning friends say that it’s because American workers are lazy. “They’re both painting with too broad a brush. The answers… are a bit more complicated.”

When asked if he thinks America is a country that respects labor, he said no. “Skilled labor, all too often, reminds the rest of us of what we’re fundamentally lacking.”

However, that’s not what bothers Mike Rowe the most. He revealed the thing that scares him the most and the inspiration for his foundation. “Thirteen years ago, for every five tradesmen that retired, two replaced them.” Those numbers are only getting worse. Now, we have the fear of COVID to dampen down the workforce even more. About that fear, Rowe said, “It doesn’t matter whether the fear is justified or not. It’s there. It’s real.”