There Is No Labor Shortage, Only Labor Exploitation

By Sonali Kolhatkar, the founder, host and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute. This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

For the past few months, Republicans have been waging a ferocious political battle to end federal unemployment benefits, based upon stated desires of saving the U.S. economy from a serious labor shortage. The logic, in the words of Republican politicians like Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, goes like this: “the government pays folks more to stay home than to go to work,” and therefore, “[p]aying people not to work is not helpful.” The conservative Wall Street Journal has been beating the drum for the same argument, saying recently that it was a “terrible blunder” to pay jobless benefits to unemployed workers.

If the hyperbolic claims are to be believed, one might imagine American workers are luxuriating in the largesse of taxpayer-funded payments, thumbing their noses at the earnest “job creators” who are taking far more seriously the importance of a post-pandemic economic growth spurt.

It is true that there are currently millions of jobs going unfilled. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics just released statistics showing that there were 9.3 million job openings in April and that the percentage of layoffs decreased while resignations increased. Taking these statistics at face value, one could conclude this means there is a labor shortage.

But, as economist Heidi Shierholz explained in a New York Times op-ed, there is only a labor shortage if employers raise wages to match worker demands and subsequently still face a shortage of workers. Shierholz wrote, “When those measures [of raising wages] don’t result in a substantial increase in workers, that’s a labor shortage. Absent that dynamic, you can rest easy.”

Remember the subprime mortgage housing crisis of 2008 when economists and pundits blamed low-income homeowners for wanting to purchase homes they could not afford? Perhaps this is the labor market’s way of saying, if you can’t afford higher salaries, you shouldn’t expect to fill jobs.

Or, to use the logic of another accepted capitalist argument, employers could liken the job market to the surge pricing practices of ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft. After consumers complained about hiked-up prices for rides during rush hour, Uber explained, “With surge pricing, Uber rates increase to get more cars on the road and ensure reliability during the busiest times. When enough cars are on the road, prices go back down to normal levels.” Applying this logic to the labor market, workers might be saying to employers: “When enough dollars are being offered in wages, the number of job openings will go back down to normal levels.” In other words, workers are surge-pricing the cost of their labor.

But corporate elites are loudly complaining that the sky is falling—not because of a real labor shortage, but because workers are less likely now to accept low-wage jobs. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce insists that “[t]he worker shortage is real,” and that it has risen to the level of a “national economic emergency” that “poses an imminent threat to our fragile recovery and America’s great resurgence.” In the Chamber’s worldview, workers, not corporate employers who refuse to pay better, are the main obstacle to the U.S.’s economic recovery.

Longtime labor organizer and senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies Bill Fletcher Jr. explained to me in an email interview that claims of a labor shortage are an exaggeration and that, actually, “we suffered a minor depression and not another great recession,” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In Fletcher’s view, “The so-called labor shortage needs to be understood as the result of tremendous employment reorganization, including the collapse of industries and companies.”

Furthermore, according to Fletcher, the purveyors of the “labor shortage” myth are not accounting for “the collapse of daycare and the impact on women and families, and a continued fear associated with the pandemic.”

He’s right. As one analyst put it, “The rotten seed of America’s disinvestment in child care has finally sprouted.” Such factors have received little attention by the purveyors of the labor shortage myth—perhaps because acknowledging real obstacles like care work requires thinking of workers as real human beings rather than cogs in a capitalist machine.

Indeed, economists and analysts have gotten used to presenting facts from the perspective of private employers and their lobbyists. The American public is expected to sympathize more with the plight of wealthy business owners who can’t find workers to fill their low-paid positions, instead of with unemployed workers who might be struggling to make ends meet.

Already, jobless benefits were slashed to appallingly low levels after Republicans reduced a $600-a-week payment authorized by the CARES Act to a mere $300 a week, which works out to $7.50 an hour for full-time work. If companies cannot compete with this exceedingly paltry sum, their position is akin to a customer demanding to a car salesperson that they have the right to buy a vehicle for a below-market-value sticker price (again, capitalist logic is a worthwhile exercise to showcase the ludicrousness of how lawmakers and their corporate beneficiaries are responding to the state of the labor market).

Remarkably, although federal jobless benefits are funded through September 2021, more than two dozen Republican-run states are choosing to end them earlier. Not only will this impact the bottom line for millions of people struggling to make ends meet, but it will also undermine the stimulus impact that this federal aid has on the economies of states when jobless workers spend their federal dollars on necessities. Conservatives are essentially engaged in an ideological battle over government benefits, which, in their view, are always wrong unless they are going to the already privileged (remember the GOP’s 2017 tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy?).

The GOP has thumbed its nose at federal benefits for residents before. In order to underscore their ideological opposition to the Affordable Care Act, recall how Republican governors eschewed billions of federal dollars to fund Medicaid expansion. These conservative ideologues chose to let their own voters suffer the consequences of turning down federal aid in service of their political opposition to Obamacare. And they’re doing the same thing now.

At the same time as headlines are screaming about a catastrophic worker shortage that could undermine the economy, stories abound of how American billionaires paid peanuts in income taxes according to newly released documents, even as their wealth multiplied to extraordinary levels. The obscenely wealthy are spending their mountains of cash on luxury goods and fulfilling childish fantasies of space travel. The juxtaposition of such a phenomenon alongside the conservative claim that jobless benefits are too generous is evidence that we are indeed in a “national economic emergency”—just not of the sort that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants us to believe.

West Virginia’s Republican Governor Jim Justice justified ending federal jobless benefits early in his state by lecturing his residents on how, “America is all about work. That’s what has made this great country.” Interestingly, Justice owns a resort that couldn’t find enough low-wage workers to fill jobs. Notwithstanding a clear conflict of interest in cutting jobless benefits, the Republican politician is now enjoying the fruits of his own political actions as his resort reports greater ease in filling positions with desperate workers whose lifeline he cut off.

When lawmakers earlier this year debated the Raise the Wage Act, which would have increased the federal minimum wage, Republicans wagged their fingers in warning, saying higher wages would put companies out of business. Opponents of that failed bill claimed that if forced to pay $15 an hour, employers would hire fewer people, close branches, or perhaps shut down altogether, which we were told would ultimately hurt workers.

Now, we are being told another story: that companies actually do need workers and won’t simply reduce jobs, close branches, or shut down and that the government therefore needs to stop competing with their ultra-low wages to save the economy. The claim that businesses would no longer be profitable if they are forced to increase wages is undermined by one multibillion-dollar fact: corporations are raking in record-high profits and doling them out to shareholders and executives. They can indeed afford to offer greater pay, and when they do, it turns out there is no labor shortage.

American workers are at a critically important juncture at this moment. Corporate employers seem to be approaching a limit of how far they can push workers to accept poverty-level jobs. According to Fletcher, “This moment provides opportunities to raise wage demands, but it must be a moment where workers organize in order to sustain and pursue demands for improvements in their living and working conditions.”

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Hayek's Heelbiter

    But corporate elites are loudly complaining that the sky is falling—not because of a real labor shortage, but because workers are less likely now to accept low-wage jobs.

    Duh. This is so blindingly obvious, but NC is the only place that seems to mention this fact.
    Here in the UK, the outmigration of marginally paid workers from Eastern Europe and the resultant “labour shortage” triggered by Brexit has made it abundantly clear that Blair’s change to open borders was not from any idealistic considerations but as a way of importing easily exploited labour.
    Business leaders quoted in the the tsunami of hand-wringing MSM articles about the current catastrophe are offering such helpful solutions as allowing housekeepers to use pools and gyms in off hours, free meals to waiters, etc. Anything but a living wage.

    1. Objective Ace

      I’m not sure what’s so obvious. I don’t actually see any untruths to the GOP talking points. Much of this article could be summarized as, “Labor shortage is a subjective term that carries no real meaning.” Given that “shortage” doesn’t really mean anything, we can simply focus on the other part of Republican claim: Workers are less likely to accept a job given Gov’t benefits. I think this is pretty objectively true.

      Its, therefore, consistent that both “Workers are less likely to accept a job while receiving Gov’t benefits” and “workers are less likely to accept low wage crappy jobs”. And we should then focus on the low wage crappy job/exploitation aspect here. Lets acknowledge the Republican’s point about Gov’t benefits as valid but point out the flipside: Rep. Jim Justice, you’re right people are less likely to work given basic government backstops and protections, but isn’t that the role of government? Billionaires and their companies have made untold fortunes off the pandemic. There’s no reason the rest of us should have to work and live in third world conditions

      1. Yves Smith

        This is hardly objective and the data does not support your contention.

        First, job growth is much higher in low-wage jobs than higher-wage ones:

        EPI’s analysis of the latest jobs report, which showed the economy gained 559,000 jobs in May, identified three key findings:

        1. Bona fide labor shortages are not pervasive across the country.
        2. The main problem in the U.S. labor market remains one of labor demand, not labor supply.
        3. Low-wage sectors have seen swifter job growth than higher-wage sectors in recent months. This is the opposite of what you would expect to find if unemployment benefits were keeping people from returning to work, as some commentators claim. In fact, unemployment insurance is still bolstering the economy, and states moving to end these benefits early will likely slow their own recovery.

        Second, workers face new post-Covid obstacles to getting to work, like cutbacks in public transportation and difficulties in arranging child care, that restrict what jobs they consider

        Third, some of those laid off during Covid found new jobs and prefer them. For instance, one of our aides used to work for Dollar General. She’s not going back. Our pay is comparable, working conditions nicer and way way less Covid risk (she’s a cancer survivor and so immunocompromised, so this is a bigger consideration for her than most people).

        1. Objective Ace

          What exactly is it your saying isn’t objective? I confess I don’t have the data, but we’ve seen the anecdotal effects of government backstops throughout time. I think they speak for themselves. If you cannot feed your family, you will take any job available no matter the deplorable conditions. Often children are even forced to accept work. This happened in the 1800s in the US, and Is happening in sweatshops in India now. Are you saying we don’t have enough data/research to know that giving basic welfare like SNAP, housing vouchers, and medicaid will reduce the supply of laborers willing to toil in mines for 12 hours every day?

          Obviously the link between government backstops and labor supply is unlikely to be linear. An extra 300 bucks a week probably isn’t as useful to everyone as SNAP, medicaid, Unemployment Insurance, etc. But just because the effect isn’t as large, doesn’t mean there’s no effect. You make some compelling arguments that there are much better ways to increase employment then reducing the 300 UI increase, and I agree wholeheartedly. But that doesn’t change that the 300 dollar weekly payments (combined with all the other structural changes) are keeping at least some people out of the workforce. And this personlly doesn’t bother me in the least.

          1. Farmer


            You lost me at, “I confess I don’t have the data, but we’ve seen the anecdotal…”

      2. Dr. R.k. Barkhi

        ” I don’t actually see any untruths to the GOP talking points. ”
        ““…Workers are less likely to accept a job while receiving Gov’t benefits” and “workers are less likely to accept low wage crappy jobs…”.

        Well,if u can survive on a $300/week program that ends after several weeks pass,bless u. No one else in America can. That’s a $7.50 hr full time “summer job” with no pension or medical benefits that teenagers with no dependents,few bills n maintenance issues might be interested in; adults with adult responsibilities,no way. That so called RepubliCons, the “economics experts”, can make such a fraudulent claim n anyone out of elementary school believes it has a quantum particle of reality or value is…. well I’ll just say a sad n unbelievable situation.

        Now the rest of your comments are laudable.

        1. Objective Ace

          They get 300 dollars plus regular UI. They can also get Medicaid and CHIP, or if they are still making too much they are eligible for Obamacare exchange. Plus they’re eligible for SNAP and housing vouchers

      3. Equitable > Equal

        There is one significant fallacy in this article: The author conflates Republican opposition to enhanced benefits with opposition to unemployment benefits overall.

        I very much stand with labour over business on most (probably all) points, but the Republican argument is to end the enhanced benefits in most cases – Not to abolish unemployment assistance. They believe the role of government is to step in to help pay basic bills in the event of unemployment, but oppose the current higher level of benefit due to the market distortions it causes (Hence the appearance of the term ‘labour shortage’.)

        I agree that it basically forces mcdonalds et al to up their wages if they want to do business, which should be a positive for society, but I find it unlikely that the author could have unintentionally mistunderstood the argument on such a fundamental level, and all it does is try to drive a wedge further between each side of the argument.

    2. Sierra


      Sonali Kohatkar is pro open borders and has the nerve to complain about wage arbitrage?

      Anyone that believes that workers supported their jobs being sent overseas is either demented or delusional or suffers from a mental hernia. The same goes for the common working stiffs supporting massive immigration to help drive down their ability to demand a livable wage.

      American labor has been sold down the river by the International Labor Leaders, politicians and the oligarchy of US corporate CEO’s.

      Got a new hip recently. Do your P.T., take it easy, follow the warnings of what not to do until you heal and you should discover that decades feel like they are lifted off your shoulders.

      1. Hayek's Heelbiter

        You’ve made a very interesting point that actually never occurred to me and one in which I never seen fully examined.
        Exploiting labour and outsourcing it are two sides of the same coin with the same goal in mind, diverting revenue streams into the C-suite and rentier class.
        Obviously you cannot outsource most of the workers in the hospitality industry or the non-virtual aspects of world’s oldest profession, but a lot of the tech industry and the virtual aspects of the latter are very amenable to being shipped overseas.
        Immigrants are extremely visible and an easy target, while outsourcing is essentially an impossible to contain concept that creates real world hardship.
        Dear NC readers, do you know of any studies comparing and contrasting the economic impact of immigration and/or limiting it and outsourcing?

  2. Fazal Majid

    Indeed, economists and analysts have gotten used to presenting facts from the perspective of private employers and their lobbyists.

    You are acting if economists and lobbyists are separate groups, as opposed to largely a subset thereof. Funny how a field entirely based on the study of incentives claims incentives don’t distort their policy prescriptions, isn’t it?

    As for low-paid jobs, they are traditionally the last resort of immigrants and other marginalized populations, but the anti-immigration push that began under Obama, and enthusiastically continued by Trump and Biden, has perfectly predictable consequences.

    One factor not mentioned is many free-riding businesses refuse to pay for training, then wonder why there are no trained workers to hire.

    Now, there are definitely fields where there is a genuine and deliberate labor shortage. Usually white-collar credentialed professions like medical doctors and the AMA cartel.

    1. Yves Smith

      Economics is not based on incentives. That’s behavioral economics. I hate to quote Larry Summers, but this is Summers on financial economics:

      Ketchup economists reject out of hand much of this research on the ketchup market. They believe that the data used is based on almost meaningless accounting information and are quick to point out that concepts such as costs of production vary across firms and are not accurately measurable in any event. they believe that ketchup transactions prices are the only hard data worth studying. Nonetheless ketchup economists have an impressive research program, focusing on the scope for excess opportunities in the ketchup market. They have shown that two quart bottles of ketchup invariably sell for twice as much as one quart bottles of ketchup except for deviations traceable to transaction costs, and that one cannot get a bargain on ketchup by buying and combining ingredients once one takes account of transaction costs. Nor are there gains to be had from storing ketchup, or mixing together different quality ketchups and selling the resulting product. Indeed, most ketchup economists regard the efficiency of the ketchup market as the best established fact in empirical economics.

      1. Howard Beale IV

        Happy to see you back at a keyboard, and hoping your recovery is progressing well. I had the misfortune of spending two days in the hospitals while they got my blood chemistry strightened out. Here’s the kicker; the hospitalist, who I saw 3 times, submitted a bill for a whopping $17,000. Just yesterday, the practice she works for submitted a bill that was one-tenth her charges for the work she did, yet her bill is still sitting waiting to be processed.

        1. Yves Smith

          OMG, how horrible. HSS is a small hospital for a big city like NYC, only 205 beds and 25 operating rooms. No emergency room. They are not owned by PE and so I don’t think play outsourcing/markup games (they are very big on controlling quality, which you can’t do if you have to go through middlemen for staffing). Some of the MDs do that their own practices within HSS but they are solo practitioners or small teams, which is not a model that you see much of anywhere outside NYC

          1. Howard Beale IV

            The last time I was hospitalized, all the hospitalists were in the employ of the hospital, now they are in the employ of a nationwide hospitalist practice, which has all the smell of private equity around it. I’m really beginning to think that a third party focusted on healthcare might have a real shot at upsetting the political order – maybe it’s time to drag out your skunk party for 2024.

    2. tegnost

      As for low-paid jobs, they are traditionally the last resort of immigrants and other marginalized populations, but the anti-immigration push that began under Obama, and enthusiastically continued by Trump and Biden, has perfectly predictable consequences.

      Well I’m sorry you can’t find easily exploitable labor, except I’m not…immigrants face the same ridiculous costs, and weren’t hispanic workers more heavily impacted by covid due to those marginal jobs (I’ll switch your dynamic to low wage workers, and marginal jobs, thanks), so by your logic more should have been let in to die from these marginal jobs?…but yeah we need more PMC…except we don’t…
      Now, there are definitely fields where there is a genuine and deliberate labor shortage. Usually white-collar credentialed professions like medical doctors and the AMA cartel.”
      Last I checked it was private equity, wall st and pharmaceutical companies and their lobbyists that drive up costs so labor needs to charge more.
      Wake up and smell the coffee.

  3. Bill Smith

    How much of this is over specification on the part of employers in the ad for the job? We want the perfect candidate who can do the job better than we can with no training….

    1. Yves Smith

      OMG this is such a long-standing pet peeve! We’ve commented on this nonsense regularly. Companies took the position that they don’t have to train and now they are eating their cooking.

      1. Bill Smith


        The mismatch between job openings and job applicants is not just about wages.

        In fact, if companies were willing to take a chance on people who didn’t exactly match the job requirements, the likely effect would be to raise the wages some of those that did not qualify under the over exacting job requirements. [And likely paying these new employees less than they had contemplated paying the perfect candidate.]

        But that seems like someone making the hiring decision might, just possibly, be seen as taking a risk.

        1. Howard Beale IV

          At my empolyer we know we can’t find any colleges that teach mainframe skills, so we bring in graduates who are willing to learn those skills – we submit them to a 3-month bootcamp and then there’s a long period of mentorship under a senior person to their group that has an opening. Since everybody and their dog are now moving headfirst into DevOps, where all the tooling is in somewhat less ancient software, they get exposed using those Eclipse/VScode-based tools and are able to come up to speed somewhat quicker. Still, no one in corporate America dares to bite the bullet and re-platform their core systems with few exceptions (SABRE) for fear of losing all the institutional knowledge that’s in software, rather than wetware (humans).

        2. Howard Beale IV

          Just think what is happening right now with everyone holding an Indian outsourcing contract. You don’t have individual’s cellphone numbers over in India, which would cost you an arm and a leg to call, never mind what’s going on in their facilities.

      2. Mike Elwin

        On the other hand, there’s something to be said for employers not training their staffs. In the SF Bay Area computer industry, employees and independent contractors alike continually race to train themselves in the new technologies that seem to crop up like mushrooms after a rain. Many companies train their customers–and charge them for it–before they’ll train their staffs. This is a principal reason there’s a market for contractors. Training oneself in new technologies lays a base for opportunities that don’t appear if you spend a decade in the same job (unless, like mainframe programming, your job is so old it’s new). I suppose this is a beneficial side of capitalism?

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > continually race to train themselves in the new technologies that seem to crop up like mushrooms after a rain

          And what, one might ask, do mushrooms grow best in….

    2. Louis

      I get that you want experience for mid to senior level jobs but the experience requirements for what are ostsensibly entry-level jobs have gotten absurd. The education requirements have also gotten out of hand in some cases.

      That being said, a lot of the shortages are in low-wage, part-time jobs so the issue isn’t necessarily ridiculous requirements, like you sometimes see for entry level white collar jobs, but wages that are too low and awful working conditions.

      How many people want to be treated like dirt–be it by customers, management, or both–for not much more than minimum wage if they have other options?

      A wage increase will help fill these jobs but there also needs to be a paradigm shift in how employees are treated–the customer is not always right and allowing them to treat employees in ways that would not be tolerated in other businesses, and certainly not in many white-collar workplaces is a huge part of the problem and why these jobs have long had high-turnover.

  4. TomDority

    It never ends – when it was about immigrant labor under George B junior – I think – the call was
    —- They do jobs that Americans won’t — or something to that effect.
    It always bothered me that the sentence was never, in my mind, completed. It should have been said
    — They do jobs that Americans won’t do at that pay level.—
    The tax system, economic system and higher education departments have been perverted by the continuous bribery and endowments by the rentier class to our elected law makers and dept heads for decades –
    The creditor, debtor relationships distorted for eons.
    The toll takers have never, in history, been in any higher level of mastery than they are now.
    It is not to throw out the constitution but, to throw out those who have perverted it.

    1. Oh

      The construction industry knows how to exploit immigrant labor, documented as well as undocumented. I’m sure most peole born here refuse to work for the same wages.

      1. chris

        The exploitation occurs on many levels. For small residential jobs, a lot of wage theft occurs. For larger jobs, a lot of safety regs get ignored. When you have a population that won’t use the legal avenues available to other citizens to push back against abuse you can get a lot done :/

  5. King

    When I go looking for a job if a degree isn’t required I am very unlikely to pursue it further. Same if the list of ‘required’ is overly detailed. I’m making assumptions in both of these cases (that might not be correct) about pay, benefits, work environment, etc. and what is actually going on with a job listing. Why? Chiefly my likelihood of actually getting a reasonable offer. I expect either being seen as overqualified in the first case or the job only being listed because of some requirement in the second.

    I have to wonder if many places know how to hire. This is made much more difficult by years of poorly written (maybe deceptive) job postings. You probably know many of the phrases; flexible schedule, family ___, reliable transportation required, and so on. Its no surprise if puffery doesn’t bring back the drones.

  6. Noone from Nowheresville

    If we’re playing with statistics. How many of these posted job openings, how many interviews did the companies offer v. how many offers were made until the position was filled? If position remains open, has the company increased the base pay offer? guaranteed an increased min. number of weekly hours? offered bonuses or increased benefits? How many times has this same job opening using the original posting criteria been re-posted? Is this a real single job opening that the company plans to fill in real time or just a posting that they keep opening because they have high turnover? etc., etc., etc.

    The real problem with this workers are lazy meme is that it is repeated and repeated all year long on the local news from the viewpoint of business. It has filtered down to local people. I hear them repeating what the local news said without giving it any critical thought. Even those who say that we need unions and believe themselves to be on the side of workers.

    Ear wigs are good for businesses. Insidious for workers.

    1. synoia

      In the UK, in the days of Labor Strive, before Neo-liberalism , there was always newspaper reports about “Labor Strife” and “bolshy workers.” Never once did the press examine Management had behaved and caused the workers to become “bolshy” – a direct reaction to Management’s attitudes and behavior, probably based on the worst attributes of the UK’s class system.

      Definition: A bolshy person often argues and makes difficulties.
      Management get the workers (Their Attitudes) it deserves.
      I recommend reading “The Toyota Way” to explore a very successful management style.

  7. tegnost

    This song is getting a probably getting more hits these days…
    Take this job and Shove It
    But I hear lots of businesses will close to to no labor, so when they close they can go work for 7.25 an hour for one of their competitors who also needs laborors…Solidarinosc!

    1. tegnost

      Geez… this song is probably getting more hits these days due to no laborors? must mean something, like proof read your posts….,

  8. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

    If businesses are suffering, it’s restaurants and small scale enterprise. The Covid response was tailored to the needs of economy of scale mega biz. They likely knew multitides of mom-n-pops would go away- and they have. But that’s fine.

  9. Susan the other

    So if state governments can turn down federal unemployment supplements because they want labor to go back to work for unlivable wages… this means the federal government can do nothing about it. When push comes to shove the question that must be settled is, Is it a human right to receive employment assistance until a job is found that pays a livable wage? (Not even a republican will actually say No). So then that puts all the stingy states on notice that there is a human rights issue here. States will have the choice to either let businesses shut down for lack of workers, or states can subsidize minimum wages and benefits. If states choose, in desperation, to subsidize minimum wages, then the states can apply to the feds to be compensated. The thing that is needed in the interim, between when the real standoff starts and ends, is a safety net for workers who are being blocked by the state from receiving unemployment benefits. I say call in the national guard. This is a human rights issue.

    1. Dr. R.k. Barkhi

      Great point. Im appalled at the RepubliCon governers responses. And they call themselves Christians?

      Imo Profitism (or Crapitalism if u pref2) is a Rights issue.

    1. Tom

      Wow. The Clinton flack was insufferable. AND WRONG about pretty much everything. Goldsmith was brilliant. I wasn’t paying enough attention at he time, but how many high profile people were making the arguments he was making?

  10. Michael Hudson

    I’m surprised that nobody has taken the opportunity to comment on how this discussion shows how hypocritical Biden and the democrats were not to press for raising the minimum wage.
    The pretense (which they must have coached the “Senate scholar” on) was that raising the minimum wage was not related to revenue (i.e., a revenue bill). But of course it is! Right now, paying below-poverty wages enabled Walmart and other employers to make the government pay part of their wage bill. Higher minimum wages would raise these government aid recipients out of the poverty range, saving public revenue.
    That is so obvious that the failure of the Democrats to make the point shows that they really didn’t want to raise wages after all.

    1. Nikkikat

      I didn’t expect much from Biden but he’s even worse than I thought. Along with those bought senators hiding behind Joe Manchin. Depressing to think how much worse everything will become for working people here.

      1. chris

        This all day long and twice on Sunday…

        When I think about how they’re complaining about Manchin now when there was a serious primary challenge against him last year, and how the Democrat organization rallied around Manchin and not his challenger, it is disgusting to see Slate/The Guardian/NYT/other “Blue no matter who” mouth breathers write articles asking what can be done to salvage a progressive agenda from the curse of bipartisanship.

        I had given up on national politics long before the 2020 election circus but this latest has confirmed my resolve. The destruction of the Democrat party can’t come soon enough.

    2. Noone from Nowheresville

      If I call them Hypocritics, when I never believed them in the first place, will they feel any shame at all? Or must I be part of their class for them to feel even the tiniest of niggles?

      Perhaps they’ll feel ashamed once they cut the check for the $600 they shorted us this winter. Or maybe that they are reneging on the extended unemployment benefits early or…

      One side makes you sleep on a bed of nails and swear allegiance.The other side generously offers to help you out, no strings attached, but you might bleed out from the thousands of tiny means-testing cuts. Each side want the lower tiers to face the gauntlet and prove one’s worthiness, hoping to convince us that a black box algorithm is the same thing as a jury of peers.

    3. Telee

      Exactly right! And keep in mind deluge of op-eds telling us that Biden is a transformational president! The same authors presented a deluge of op-eds telling us how Senator Sanders was to radical for the American people after he did well in early primaries. That the reforms he supported like Medicare for all, raising the minimum wage, lowering drug costs, help with daycare, doing something about climate change etc. were reforms that the people would never accept because the people value their freedom and don’t want to live in a socialistic country.
      It looks like none of the promises Biden made during the campaign will be implemented by President Biden. That why he is in the White House.

  11. rowlf

    Would a lot of these positions be filled if the US had single payer healthcare or similar? Would workers accept low paying positions if they didn’t have to lose so much of their pay to crappy health insurance?

  12. Nikkikat

    At our local Petsmart they cut staff during the pandemic. They laid off all full time workers
    And are only hiring back part time. I knew several of the laid off people and they are not coming back. Two of the people that worked full time have found other jobs one with slightly better pay the other with slightly better benefits. We are in California where rent is very high so another person we know decided to use this as a chance to relocate to another state where housing is less expensive. Our older neighbor retired, although vaccinated now, he decided it just wasn’t safe and after the CDC told everyone to take off their mask off. He is glad he just decided to live on a little less money. I suspect there are a lot of reasons as Yves stated above for a lack of workers, but this “they are lazy” trope is capitalistic nonsense.

    1. Petter

      This “they are lazy” trope has a long history. Yasha Levine wrote about it for the Exiled and it was reposted here at NC.

      Some highlights:
      >>…everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious.
      —Arthur Young; 1771
      >>Even David Hume, that great humanist, hailed poverty and hunger as positive experiences for the lower classes, and even blamed the “poverty” of France on its good weather and fertile soil:
      ‘Tis always observed, in years of scarcity, if it be not extreme, that the poor labour more, and really live better.

      >>Poverty is therefore a most necessary and indispensable ingredient in society…It is the source of wealth, since without poverty, there could be no labour; there could be no riches, no refinement, no comfort, and no benefit to those who may be possessed of wealth.

  13. athingtoconsider

    I’ll just point out, per the Old Testament, that wage, debt and rent slavery were the exception, not the norm (as they are in the US) for citizens (Hebrews) in ancient Israel/Judah.

    That’s because the assets in ancient Israel/Judah were roughly equally owned by all citizens with provisions in the OT Law (eg. Leviticus 25, eg. Deuteronomy 15, eg. Deuteronomy 23:19-20) to keep it that way in the long run (but less than 50 years).

    Contrast that to US where we have privileges for a private credit cartel, aka “the banks”, and no limits to the concentration of land ownership and the roots of our problems are evident.

    So begging for better jobs for citizens is, in the Biblical context, pathetically weak tea indeed.

  14. Amateur Socialist

    On a personal note I had a great job interview Thursday at the local food co-op. This is my first in person interview since I was terminated without cause by IBM (after almost 24 years there in a server development job) almost a year ago. Despite applying for over 100 positions. I’m over 60 and haven’t worked in a year so I admit I’m grateful to even get the chance.

    I have another interview with them next week and hoping to start soon as a produce clerk making $13.50 an hour. If I can get on full time they offer a decent insurance plan including dental. The HR person acknowledged that I was “wildly overqualified” but encouraging. The possibility of getting health care is key; my IBM Cobra benefits will start costing me almost $1400/monthly for myself and my husband in September after the ARA subsidy expires.

    I’ve adjusted my expectations to reinvent myself as a manual laborer after decades in fairly cushy corporate life. I’ve managed to keep my health and physical capacity so somewhat optimistic I can meet the job requirements that include lifting 50 lb boxes of produce. But we’ll see.

    1. athingtoconsider

      and haven’t worked in a year Amateur Socialist

      You mean you haven’t had a job in a year since it’s highly doubtful that you have not done any work in a year; eg. cooking, cleaning, shopping, car maintenance, gardening, chauffeuring, mowing the lawn, home maintenance and caring for others count as work.

      We need to stop conflating work (good) with wage slavery as if the former necessarily requires the latter.

      1. Amateur Socialist

        Okay sure. I haven’t earned in a year. But it’s still a problem I’m trying to sort out best as I can.

        Since I still live in the US where earning is highly correlated with insurance coverage, and I still have about 5 years until we’re both qualified for Medicare this may turn out to be a great thing that has happened.

        And since I don’t see a path out of wage slavery today I’ll be happy to accept almost any offer from the food co-op. It’s a union job with decent pay and benefits and may offer other opportunities in the future. They mostly buy and sell products that are locally made so that makes it easier too. The money we are all enslaving each other over is staying around here as much as possible. Okay.

        1. Arizona Slim

          A former neighbor worked in our local food co-op and loved her job. At the co-op, she was a cashier. She also was a retired attorney.

      2. Dr. R.k. Barkhi

        Good luck! Fyi i strongly suggest u look into taking your IBM pension asap as 1. It will minimally impact your taxes as u r now earning less n 2. How many more years do u think it will be there? ( I usually recommend most people take their social security at 62 for similar reasons but in your case I’d do your research b4 making any move like that. ) Take a blank state n Fed tax form n pencil in the new income n see what the results are.
        Btw truly wonderful people are involved in food co-ops,enjoy!

  15. Sound of the Suburbs

    No one really questions the idea of maximising profit.
    How do you maximise profit?
    You minimise costs, including labour costs, i.e. wages.

    Where did the idea of maximising profit comes from?
    It certainly wasn’t from Adam Smith.

    “But the rate of profit does not, like rent and wages, rise with the prosperity and fall with the declension of the society. On the contrary, it is naturally low in rich and high in poor countries, and it is always highest in the countries which are going fastest to ruin.” Adam Smith
    Exactly the opposite of today’s thinking, what does he mean?
    When rates of profit are high, capitalism is cannibalising itself by:
    1) Not engaging in long term investment for the future
    2) Paying insufficient wages to maintain demand for its products and services
    Today’s problems with growth and demand.
    Amazon didn’t suck its profits out as dividends and look how big it’s grown (not so good on the wages).

    The benefits of the system can be passed upwards in dividends or downwards in wages.
    Both actually detract from the money available for re-investment as Jeff Bezos knows only too well.
    He didn’t pay dividends, and paid really low wages, to maximise the amount that he could re-invest in Amazon and look how big it’s grown.
    The shareholders gains are made through the value of the shares.
    Jeff Bezos hopes other people are paying high enough wages to buy lots of stuff from Amazon; his own workers don’t have much purchasing power.

    Where do the benefits of the system go?
    Today, we pass as much as possible upwards in dividends.
    In the Keynesian era they passed a lot more down in wages.

    1. cnchal

      > Jeff Bezos hopes other people are paying high enough wages to buy lots of stuff from Amazon; his own workers don’t have much purchasing power.

      You are missing the tree in the forest. Jeff hopes other people will pay a high enough price for Amazon stawk. We already know Jeff doesn’t give a shit about the stuff he sells, or the inhumane working conditions that go along with the low pay and short “career”. I mean, not even the nastiest farmer would treat his mules like that, even if mules were easy and cheap to come by.

      So far, Mr Market says beating workers, good.

  16. Sound of the Suburbs

    We don’t think people should get money when they are not working.
    Are you sure?

    What’s the point in working?
    Why bother?
    It’s just not worth all the effort when you can make money doing nothing.
    In 1984, for the first time in American history, “unearned” income exceeded “earned” income.
    They love easy money.

    With a BTL portfolio, I can get the capital gains on a number of properties and extract the hard earned income of generation rent at the same time.
    That sounds good.
    What is there not to like?

    We love easy money.

    You’ve just got to sniff out the easy money.
    All that hard work involved in setting up a company yourself, and building it up.
    Why bother?
    Asset strip firms other people have built up, that’s easy money.

    People do love easy money.

    1. Sound of the Suburbs

      “West Virginia’s Republican Governor Jim Justice justified ending federal jobless benefits early in his state by lecturing his residents on how, “America is all about work. That’s what has made this great country.”
      Have you had a look around recently?

      In 1984, for the first time in American history, “unearned” income exceeded “earned” income.
      America is not about work at all.

      1. athingtoconsider

        America is not about work at all. SoS

        The US is largely about exploiting or being exploited with most of US doing both.

        We should resent an economic system that requires we exploit others or be a pure victim ourselves.

        That said and to face some truths we’d rather not, the Bible offers some comfort, eg:

        Ecclesiastes 7:16
        Do not be excessively righteous, and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself?

        Ecclesiastes 5:8-9
        If you see oppression of the poor and denial of justice and righteousness in the province, do not be shocked at the sight; for one official watches over another official, and there are higher officials over them. After all, a king who cultivates the field is beneficial to the land.

        Nonetheless, we should support economic justice and recognize that most of us are net losers to an unjust economic system even though it offers some corrupt compensation* to divide and confuse us.

        *eg positive yields and interest on the inherently risk-free debt of a monetary sovereign.

      2. KLG

        Jim Justice made his money the old fashioned way, he inherited it:

        From Wiki: James Conley Justice II (born April 27, 1951) is an American businessman and politician who has been serving as the 36th governor of West Virginia since 2017. With a net worth of around $1.2 billion, he is the wealthiest person in West Virginia. He inherited a coal mining business from his father and built a business empire with over 94 companies, including the Greenbrier, a luxury resort.

  17. chris

    I wonder how much of this is also related to a change in the churn we assume existed pre-pandemic? For example, the most recent JOLTS survey results from April 2021 show the total number of separations hasn’t really changed but the number of quits has increased.

    So, one possible interpretation of that would be employers are less likely to fire people and those who think they have skills in demand are more interested in leaving for better opportunities now. That makes intuitive sense given what we’ve been through. If you had a good gig and it was stable through 2020 you had very little reason to leave it even if an offer was better with another company. That goes double if you were a caregiver or had children. Which of course is why many women who were affected by the challenges of balancing daycare and a career gave up.

    This is also my experience lately. While it’s only anecdotal evidence, we’re having a hard time hiring mid career engineers. Doesn’t seem like pay is the issue. We offer a ton of vacation, a separate pool of sick time, decent benefits, and wages in the six figures with a good bonus program. We’re looking to hire 3 engineers. We can’t even get people to apply. In 2019 we could be sure to see a steady supply of experienced candidates looking for new opportunities. Now? If you have an engineering position and your company is letting you work from home it seems you don’t have a good reason to jump.

  18. Buckeye

    Look no further than Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio. They had only half the staff they normally need at $10 an hour. So they double the wage to $20 an hour and filled every job in less than a week. The Conservaturds will never admit they are lying.

  19. DWoolley

    As a small business owner providing professional services I am grateful for the comment section here.

    I have called professional peers to get a behind the corporate PR perspective of their businesses. Although anecdotal, the overall trend in our industry is to accept the labor shortage and downsize. Most firms have a reliable backlog of work and will benefit from an infrastructure bill. Our firm has chosen to downsize and close vacant positions.

    Remote work, although feasible, has employees thinking they are LeBron James, regardless of their skill set. Desperate employers are feeding their belief. Two years from now it will be interesting to see if these employees they fail forward. Company culture minimized employee turnover pre-covid. This culture has little meaning to an employee working in his daughter’s playroom.

    For context, in California, I believe the median income for licensees is approximately $110,000 with lower level technicians easily at $75k in the urban areas.

    Lastly, the “paltry” $300 per week is in additional to the state unemployment checks and is not subject to taxes. As stated previously, $300 is equal to $7.50 per hour. Federal minimum wage is $7.25 and is adopted by many states minimum, for what it’s worth.

    Thanks again for the forum.

    1. JBird4049

      With respect, I do not see any there there in the comment. Adjusted for inflation the minimum wage at its height in 1968 at 1.60, would be just under $13 per hour today. However, even at $15 in California, it is inadequate.

      Anyone making anything like the minimum wage would not be working from home, but would be working in some kind of customer service job, and would find paying for adequate food, clothing, and shelter very difficult. Not in getting any extras, but only in getting enough to survive. People, and their families, do need to eat.

      If the response of not paying enough, and therefore not getting new hires, is to downsize, perhaps that is good. After all no business deserves to remain in business, especially if the business model depends on its workers being unable to survive.

  20. Sue inSoCal

    I am also fed up with the “lazy worker” meme. Or rather, propaganda. People are literally exhausted working 2 or 3 lousy jobs and no real healthcare. Equally irritating to me is a misguided notion that we have some magically accessible generous safety net in the US. As though there aren’t thousands and thousands on waiting lists for government subsidized housing. Section 8 vouchers? Good luck.

    We’ve ended “welfare as we [knew] it” (AFDC) thanks to Bill Clinton and then the screw was turned tightly by Junior Bush (no child care, but go to work.) The upshot was bad news for kids.

    Seems to me one of the few things left is the food stamp program, and I can’t imagine how that’s been reconfigured. Whomever gave that fantastic list of goodies people can get in the US with a mere snap of the fingers isn’t in the real world, imho.

    Ok! Yves, lovely to see you again, my friend! (Cue the Moody Blues…) Get well!

  21. 10 legged shadow

    Here is my story.
    I am 56 years old, on dialysis and I was collecting SSI of 529 a month.
    I was living with and taking care of my mother in her home because she had dementia.
    She died in December and I had to start paying the bills. In March I inherited her IRA which I reported to SS. I was able to roll it over into my own IRA because I am disabled, due to the Trump tax law changes.
    I reported the changes in a timely manner and because I couldn’t afford to live here without a job, I took a part time job for 9 an hour.
    So now, because I inherited my mother’s IRA and have too much resources I no longer qualify for SSI and have been overpaid to the tune of almost 2 grand, which I am assuming I will have to pay back. I have no idea how that works either. Do they just grab money out of your account? Anyone who knows please tell me.

    1. JBird4049

      I would run, run, run to the nearest public assistance counselor or lawyer. In the San Francisco Bay Area, it is should not be too hard to find one. They saved me. There are also in California several state websites. There was a useful to me benefits planning site(It only covers nine states though).

      The rules for SSI (Supplemental Security Income), SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance), Social Security, Medi-Cal or Medicaid, and Medicare are each different. Each state has its own modifications as well, so that is fifty additional sets of modified rules especially for the medical benefits. If they are determined to claw back the money, how it is done might depend on the individual state. It is truly a maze of flycatchers and trapdoors out for you and your money.

      The overworked benefits clerks often do not have the knowledge to deal with anything even slightly unusual and are not encourage or at least discouraged from finding out due to the never shrinking pile, not from anyone’s malice. This means you could lose benefits because they did not know what they were doing or just by mistake. So, it is up to you to find those nonprofit counselors or the for profit lawyer to help you through the laws, rules, and whatever local regulations there are. Hopefully, you will not have to read through some of the official printed regulations like I did. If wasn’t an experience paper pusher.. The average person would have been lost. Intelligence and competence has nothing to do with. Hell, neither does logic, I think.

      In my case, when I inherited a retirement account, SSDI was not affected, because of how the original account was set up. However, SSDI is different from SSI although both have interesting and Byzantine requirements. I guess to make sure we are all “deserving” of any help.

      So don’t ask anonymous bozos like me on the internet and find those local counselors. If it is nonprofit, they will probably do it completely free. If needed, many lawyers, including tax lawyers, and CPAs will offer discounted help or will know where you can go.

  22. Sound of the Suburbs

    What is the floor on wages?
    Disposable income = wages – (taxes + the cost of living)
    Set disposable income to zero.
    Minimum wages = taxes + the cost of living
    So, as we increase housing costs, we drive up wages.

    The neoliberal solution.
    Try and paper over the cracks with Payday loans.
    This what we call a short term solution.

    Someone has been tinkering with the economics and that’s why we can’t see the problem.
    The early neoclassical economists hid the problems of rentier activity in the economy by removing the difference between “earned” and “unearned” income and they conflated “land” with “capital”.
    They took the focus off the cost of living that had been so important to the Classical Economists as this is where rentier activity in the economy shows up.
    It’s so well hidden no one even knows it’s there and everyone trips up over the cost of living, even the Chinese.

    Angus Deaton rediscovers the wheel that was lost by the early neoclassical economists.
    “Income inequality is not killing capitalism in the United States, but rent-seekers like the banking and the health-care sectors just might” Angus Deaton, Nobel prize winner.
    Employees get their money from wages and the employers pay the cost of living through wages, reducing profit.
    This raises the costs of doing anything in the US, and drives off-shoring.

    The Chinese learn the hard way.
    Davos 2019 – The Chinese have now realised high housing costs eat into consumer spending and they wanted to increase internal consumption.
    They let real estate rip and have now realised why that wasn’t a good idea.

    The equation makes it so easy.
    Disposable income = wages – (taxes + the cost of living)
    The cost of living term goes up with increased housing costs.
    The disposable income term goes down.
    They didn’t have the equation, they used neoclassical economics.
    The Chinese had to learn the hard way and it took years, but they got there in the end.

    They have let the cost of living rise and they want to increase internal consumption.
    Disposable income = wages – (taxes + the cost of living)
    It’s a double whammy on wages.
    China isn’t as competitive as it used to be.
    China has become more expensive and developed Eastern economies are off-shoring to places like Vietnam, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

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