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Lack of workers impacts operating hours at many places

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — It is a shortage that is impacting people’s everyday lives from coffee runs, to getting kids to and from school, and even health care.

A worker shortage is causing businesses to close early and for some to halt certain services because they don’t have the staff to accommodate them.

Operating hours at a Greenwood Starbucks location are cut in half. At a Starbucks on 15th Street and Capitol Avenue in Indianapolis, the hours seem to change daily because of a lack of staffing. It isn’t just a Starbucks or fast-food problem. Over the last few months, jobs openings have been apparent for restaurants, bus drivers and hospitals; all tell News 8 they have been struggling to find workers.

“I need cooks. I need kitchen people. I need servers. I need bartenders. I will take some hosts,” said Tammi Fox with Brozinni Pizzeria.

“Yeah, we are hiring. Come to District Tap, best place to work downtown,” said Jeff Huron.

“There is a shortage of nurses being paid enough. There is a shortage of nurses being treated right, being given the appropriate protective equipment,” said Lexi Morey, an Indianapolis nurse.

With the pre-pandemic workforce being cut by millions, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, industries including food service, hospitality and health care have been hit especially hard.

“Well, there was much speculation that this was caused by a rather generous unemployment insurance. Those days are over. We are back to normal,” said Michael Hicks, an economist at Ball State University.

According to Hicks, here are some of the most common reasons behind the labor shortage:

  • A need for child care, and workers not making enough money to cover the cost or having little money left over, so they stay home.
  • Changes in lifestyle resulting in a need for a change in work with many capitalizing on new remote positions.
  • Workers being dissatisfied with their jobs and getting more training to change careers.

“There may be a small number of those workers who are concerned about contracting COVID, bringing it home to a family member,” Hicks said.

He added that some younger workers are also concerned with being exposed to the virus and having to quarantine from school, “so they may stay out of the workforce.”

Over the last few months, workers in struggling industries have told News 8 they are overworked and underpaid. So how do you get people back to work?

“I think higher wages are going to be one of the consequences of this. I just don’t see any other way around it,” Hicks said.

In addition to the pay increase, Hicks says, some businesses will also need to increase their benefits to entice workers.

Also, some businesses may introduce new technology to make up for the lack of staffing.

“Some of that will translate into higher costs for their goods; others with lower profits for their owners,” Hicks said.

The Ball State economist says some businesses can’t adjust their business models and they will have to close shop, which will free up workers to fill other positions.

“In a more rapidly growing economy with a lot of labor demand, sort of marginal jobs — those that don’t pay well, those that don’t offer a lot of benefits, those that have bad reputations because of poor managers — tend to be the ones that have difficulty staying open. And their closure should not hurt our feelings. It is fine if bad businesses fail in the same way it is fine if a bad employee is fired. That is how the entrepreneur learns how to be better next time, and the worker learns how to get new skills for the next job. It is part of that creative destruction that a recession causes,” Hicks said.

Hicks says change won’t come overnight but, given the current situation, he does feel that the increase in wages and benefits will sustain as the economy and bring back the labor force.

News 8 emailed Workforce Development for an interview, but the state department never replied.

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