Due to COVID, wait times may be longer than usual.

Due to COVID, product availability has been limited.

Due to COVID, we’ve been experiencing supply-chain issues, and that is delaying product shipment times.

Don’t you just want to scream every time you hear that “due to COVID” the entire world seems to have given up on the concepts of excellence and customer service?

A record number of container ships (as many as 100 or more) are at anchor or floating off the coast of California, unable to offload cargo. Under normal circumstances, there would be only one ship, at most, waiting to dock and unload. Despite the backlog, the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports are operating at 60% to 70% capacity. Reason: Due to the COVID pandemic, there aren’t enough workers all along the supply chain—dock workers, truckers, railway workers, warehouse workers.

The trucker shortage has been growing for quite some time, but the pandemic has worsened the problem as more older drivers have retired and online shopping has increased demand for drivers.

Earlier in the pandemic, factories around the world were closed, so nothing was being produced. With the opening of the world economy, there is a surge in demand…yet businesses are unable to keep up.

Walk down the street in any town, and you will see signs in almost every store and restaurant window that they are hiring. These businesses have been forced to cut their hours and services due to labor shortages. For months, the shortage was blamed on the supplemental unemployment financial support provided by the CARES Act, which, in some cases, provided recipients more money when they weren’t working than when they were. Those benefits expired in all states in September…and yet the labor shortage continues.

What’s going on? Where are all the workers?

Some are still unemployed…and some actually dropped out of the workforce entirely.

At the end of 2019, the unemployment rate for people over age 16 was 3.5% and it was 2.4% for those over 55. With 96.5% of the workforce employed, supply chains were flowing and service was, well, as good as it has been in recent years after companies started “off-shoring” customer service and automating communications to save money.

Fast forward to two months ago. In August 2021, unemployment was 5.2%—so approximately 48.6% more people were in search of jobs in August than two years ago. There should be plenty of available workers now, right?

But the unemployment rate counts only those who are actively in the workforce. The Herald-Times of Bloomington, Indiana, reports that 65% of baby boomers retired when the pandemic hit…and nearly six million more baby boomers retired between October 2020 and March 2021 than during the same period in the prior year. That brings the total retired baby boomers to 30.3 million in the first quarter of 2021. Ouch!

Meanwhile, in a grand move of irony and in the midst of the labor shortage, businesses and governments of all kinds and sizes are firing workers who refuse to get vaccinated by the hundreds. Health-care workers…teachers…airlines employees…the list goes on.

Economically, it makes no sense. Companies are lacking workers…demand is up…and yet staffing is being cut despite the fact that the vast majority of the population is vaccinated or has developed immunity from having been sick. Health-care systems now are calling on the National Guard to cover for their staff shortages This could lead to another health-care crisis as people are unable, once again, to receive care and treatment for assorted health issues including life or death challenges.

And keep in mind, these same health-care workers exposed themselves to the original form of COVID for nearly a year without a vaccine—some got COVID…many didn’t. Similarly, airline workers continued to fly throughout the worst of the pandemic in 2020 before the vaccine was introduced, without a significant spike in illness among them. Most corporations worked remotely, though many retailers remained open.

So here we are…nearly two years into COVID. The economy wants to return, but we lack workers. People are leaving the workforce because they’re fed up…others don’t want to return to the office because they have come to like the flexibility of remote work…skilled and talented people who want to work are being forced out of the workforce because they refuse to get vaccinated…and the government is looking to expand entitlements, which will further disincentivize people to work and raise the cost of living for all of us.

So I ask you…who is going to work?

And who is going to have money to shop?

And a third question…who is going to have the money to pay the higher prices? Inflation was 5.4% in June/July, the highest it has been in 13 years, and the prices of gasoline, cars, food and Christmas presents are skyrocketing?

Usually, I have suggestions and solutions. Sadly today, I merely have questions as I look at a world spinning in a mass of contradictions. My hope is that if enough people question these contradictions, we will get off this merry-go-round and return to an environment that both allows and encourages people to enjoy the benefits of earning a living.

Baby boomers…second chapter, yes…but don’t let yourself atrophy.  It may be fun to do away with responsibility and high-pressured jobs after decades of intensity, but studies show that those who remain more engaged either through work or volunteering fare best physically and mentally. You don’t need to continue to be the type-A workaholic of your past, but having a reason to get up each morning is vital to longevity.

And a word for young people—as tempting as it is to “nomad” for life, you can’t afford not to work emotionally, mentally or monetarily.

Without workers who want to work…and an environment that encourages work…the lives we have come to know are at risk of changing forever.

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