America’s Labor Shortage Isn’t Just About the Pandemic: Here’s Why

by Amy Myers
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(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The labor shortage in the U.S. continues to affect just about every component of society from schools to supply chains to health care and more. And although the shortage began during the pandemic, this isn’t the only reason for the lack of workers. U.S. CEOs have stated that the labor shortage is the toughest obstacle they’re currently facing, according to the Conference Board’s survey.

The populations that are most notably absent from the workforce include millions of immigrants, mothers and older employees. According to Axios, there are roughly 2 million fewer employed working-age immigrants, and there are 1.5 million fewer mothers with school-aged children. In the case of non-working moms, these individuals have had to sacrifice jobs to instead fulfill childcare responsibilities. This is because there are fewer options available because of pandemic-related conditions. Unfortunately, this then creates a feedback loop in some cases. Mothers working in the childcare and schooling industries have to return home to care for their own kids.

Meanwhile, as of October 2021, 3.3 million more employees have retired than in January 2020, exceeding pre-pandemic projections.

How Vaccine-or-Test Mandate Affects Labor Shortage

And there’s another major component to the problematic labor shortage. Amid the school closures and supply chain delays, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration began its emergency measure. This mandate required all private businesses with more than 100 employees to submit proof of vaccination against COVID. Or, instead, they can show a weekly negative test in order to access their workplace. For companies that don’t have alternative remote offices, failure to do so means fewer employees.

Just three days after OSHA and the Biden administration required these measures, the Supreme Court rejected the mandates. The Supreme Court’s reasoning for the denial revolved around OSHA’s jurisdiction and whether the vaccine mandate stretched beyond just occupational safety.

“Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly,” the court wrote in an unsigned opinion, per CNBC. “Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls in the latter category.” 

Meanwhile, the order is still intact for medical facilities that accept payment through Medicare and Medicaid. Likewise, the mask mandate also still applies to this population of workers.

Ultimately, this decision may also affect the labor shortage as workers without the vaccination, helping to bring back part of the population. Even so, Aaron Sojourner, a labor economist at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management believes that the quickest way to revitalize the workforce is to provide public health solutions.

“The most obvious solutions are public health solutions,” said Sojourner. “It’s a win win.”

Outsider.com