The Current State of Staffing in the U.S.

The pandemic threw quite a wrench in everyone’s plans for the better part of three years. In February 2020, the economy was on a steady upward trend, and major job losses from the Great Recession of 2008 had long since been recovered. Low unemployment, interest rates, and inflation helped contribute to the longest economic expansion on record. 

Then the COVID-19 pandemic came to the U.S., effectively shutting down the entire nation and, as a result, the economy. In just one year, the economy shrank by 3.5 percent: millions of people lost their jobs, countless businesses closed their doors, and supply chain disruptions caused havoc for manufacturers and consumers alike.

While we have been steadily adjusting to our new social normal, the job market has remained out of sorts. Though many people were able to return to work in late 2020, a mass exodus of workers affected various industries through 2021 and into 2022, an era coined as “The Great Resignation” or “The Great Reshuffle.” (Note: it wouldn’t hurt to get a little more creative with the names of these major economic events.) This time period also saw the rise of the term “quiet quitting” to describe workers who “mailed it in” when it came to their job performance.

Fewer people may be quitting their jobs in 2023, but many industries are still burdened by staffing shortages: 

  • Education (includes teachers, bus drivers, and social workers)
  • Child care
  • Healthcare
  • Hospitality
  • Manufacturing
  • Construction

Workers leaving their roles primarily cite low pay and lack of opportunities for advancement as their main reasons for quitting. And some are leaving their industries altogether: according to CNBC, half of the 47 million people who quit their jobs in 2021 switched careers completely.

In healthcare, many workers report that they feel overworked and burned out and are looking to change careers, or have already done so. As a result, we’re expected to experience a shortage of over 300,000 healthcare professionals – physicians and nurses alike – by the year 2030.

Educational institutions are also having a hard time attracting and retaining workers, and some fear that isn’t going to change anytime soon. Along with a teacher shortage, fewer people are working towards education degrees. An ever-shrinking incoming pool of available talent means an even greater workload for existing teachers, making them more likely to leave their positions. 

In the childcare industry, The New York Times reports that, compared to pre-pandemic numbers, the workforce has decreased by 100,000 professionals. Perhaps one reason: the profession is one of the 25 lowest-paid jobs in America, with an average annual income of just over $27,000. 

Other jobs on that list include cooks, dishwashers, hosts and hostesses, and fast-food workers. While some sectors are seeing improvement, it’s particularly difficult to find financial success in the restaurant industry, which is a large contributing factor to its labor shortage.

However, understanding the causes of the labor shortage doesn’t really help us solve the issues that come with running a lean staff. To learn strategies for retaining employees and filling open positions, download our free guide: Tips for Combatting Staffing Shortages below.

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