Businesses across the U.S. are still experiencing a scarcity of workers interested in applying for low-wage positions, in what is considered as the labor shortage crisis.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the number of job openings increased to 10.1 million in June. Experts say that the Covid-19 pandemic is a breaking-point for low-wage workers in sectors like food service and manufacturing.
Both the government and private sectors are scrambling to find ways to attract employees. Many states have resorted to prematurely ending the $300 weekly unemployment benefit, which was supposed to expire in September. "In a way, mabuti yung paunti-unti na tanggalin yung $300 a week. Maghanap na ng permanenteng trabaho (In a way, it's good to slowly remove the $300 a week [unemployment benefit]. They should look for permanent jobs already)," argued Dr. Jose Bautista, economic professor at Xavier University.
But the U.S. Treasury and Labor departments say that due to the Delta Covid-19 variant, many residents need more time to find jobs. The Biden administration has announced that states can use funds from the American Rescue Plan to extend weekly payments for the long-term unemployed.
For over a year, Orlando-based Filipino American chef Vitz Espina had relied on the government's benefits after his restaurant was forced to close down due a statewide lockdown in Florida. "In my restaurant, we are hiring left and right once we become 100% capacity," shared Espina.
Meanwhile, several companies have raised their minimum wage in a bid to attract workers. But Bautista warned of drastic effects from such a move. "Name-maintain pa nila yung profit margin nila. Paano nila mame-maintain yung profit margin nila kung hindi nila itaas yung mga presyo nila? Sa consumer, talagang magkakaroon ng impact (They can still maintain their profit margin. How can they do so without increasing their prices? It will really have an impact on consumers)."
Aside from increasing wages, companies are also offering better benefit packages. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is likewise rallying the business community to train more Americans for in demand jobs and remove barriers to work to further address the labor shortage crisis.