America’s real recovery hinges on people returning to work sites

To “build back America” key workers must return to job sites.

It is not good enough for President Joe Biden to lean back on low unemployment numbers claiming success when employers cannot find workers.

Inflation is a huge deterrent. It has been running at over 8%.

Last April, the New York Post reported: “White-hot inflation has forced the average American household to cough up an extra $460 per month, as surging prices for food and fuel put family budgets across the nation under strain.”

When Biden took office, the cost of gas was $2.39 per gallon. Today, it is over $5 in Washington, partly because our state’s gas taxes and fees are the fourth highest (49.4 cents per gallon) in the nation.

Public safety is an overriding impediment. For example, last summer Amazon’s downtown office employees resumed off-site work because commuters feared for their safety on Seattle streets.

August was Seattle’s single most lethal month. There were 11 homicides, the deadliest pace in nearly three decades. Seattle recorded 500 shootings after eight months of 2022.

Benton County has seen a record-high of 17 homicides so far this year. Franklin County has seen six homicide cases, including one officer-involved shooting, the Tri-City Herald reported.

The same is happening with drug overdoses and deaths.

“August has been the cruelest on that front too. The city’s 911 system has recorded 53 drug casualty calls just this month, more than double the average from the spring,” Danny Westneat wrote in the Seattle Times.

A survey by the Major Cities Chiefs Association revealed that while homicides and rapes are down in U.S. urban areas compared to last year, violent crime has increased by 4.4% and remains much higher than before the pandemic.

Last December, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce poll spelled trouble for America’s employers whether they are in the private or public sectors. It learned that over 60% of the respondents were in no hurry to return to work and over a third of the unemployed were not actively going after a job or even looking.

The problem is growing worse.

Many respondents felt they can get by for at least another six months before they must find employment. The survey found that one-sixth said the amount of the money they were receiving from unemployment benefits and government programs made it “not worth looking” for work, the chamber added.

Last year the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported there were 10.4 million open jobs, and the people were quitting at a record high. Bottom line, there were 2.3 million fewer workers in the workforce last October compared with the same month in 2019.

No doubt, Covid-19 changed work and workers. People, who traditionally commuted to the office, worked remotely. A Harris Poll in October 2021 found that 76% of employees want to make work permanently flexible when it comes to location and scheduling.

“The desire for work flexibility is being met with a conflicting message – about three-quarters of their employers think they are more innovative and work harder in the office or on-site,” Harris found.

Not all work can be remotely done or with a flexible schedule.

An obvious example is a power line worker. Electric grid engineers can connect remotely to plan projects. However, when electric transmission line goes down, it is a different story. Sorting out what jobs can be remote is a challenge, but all jobs must be filled with people willing to work and open to training.

Employers are raising wages and benefits to recruit and retain workers but find it troubling when someone is hired and does not show up for work.

The President and Congress need to do their part by lowering inflation, making gasoline more affordable and reducing crime.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer, and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at theBrunells@msn.com.

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