Why is there a persistent labor scarcity in some Pittsburgh industries?

Ryan Deto

Pittsburgh – Everyone saw the signs.

Workers quit or went out at several restaurants and retail outlets across Pittsburgh, announcing with a hasty handwritten poster that the facility would be closed. Employees can pass a message with the emphasis “We’re going to stop” or they can leave without telling anyone.

Places like the Subway, Family Dollars, and Burger King have faced dramatic labor shortages in Pittsburgh this summer, whether out of frustration, organized work behavior, or public safety. ..

Work stoppages are very common and many are scratching their heads trying to find out what is causing this labor shortage. Some hypothesize that people are tired of working for low wages and are demanding better pay. Others speculate that coronavirus concerns remain as cases rise and vaccination rates fall. And there may be other factors that people might not even have thought of.

It is difficult to determine a cause of the pandemic industrial action in Pittsburgh. But Pittsburgh City Paper We spoke to three local experts in hopes of providing answers.

Economists could be involved in Pittsburgh’s demographics as the pandemic has pushed many older workers in the area into early retirement and it has not been easy to replace them with younger workers. Is high.

They also say that some industries such as hospitality are missing, but there seems to be a corresponding growth in warehouse and logistics jobs. People development experts believe these changes are likely caused by people looking for better wages and a better work environment.

Toni Felice, director of data and analysis at local workforce development group Partner4Work, said employers have a changing desire for a changing workforce in Pittsburgh to ensure they fill all available positions. One of the experts who thinks he has to adapt. ..

“What is about Pittsburgh is that we have a strong work ethic. I want to work, ”said Felice. “This is [pandemic] He gave me the opportunity to ask, “How do you want to work?” It used to be that people defined themselves through their careers, but this pandemic may have helped them understand that this is not how they want to live. “

Recovery is slow

Like most parts of the United States, the Pittsburgh economy has not fully recovered from its pre-COVID-19 pandemic condition. After a sharp and significant drop in employment in April 2020, employment in Pittsburgh and elsewhere rose significantly by autumn 2020. What sets Pittsburgh apart from other regions, however, is that employment has remained relatively constant since the fall surge, while in other regions employment has increased slowly but steadily as it approaches pre-pandemic levels. power.

In June, the Pittsburgh metropolitan area employed a total of 1,160,100 people, but pre-pandemic employment was close to 1,210,000.

Felice believes that the quality of the work available doesn’t exactly encourage people to return to work and sprint. Partner4Work processes and quantifies job vacancies, and Felice states that most of the jobs have been in retail in the last 30 days. She says these positions presently and historically offer low wages and employees tend to work on unstable and inconsistent schedules.

“Why aren’t people coming back? Part of that is the quality of the work and part of that is the scheduling, ”Felice said.

Pa. The unemployment rate fell to 6.9% in June and is still above the national unemployment rate.

Additionally, many retailers and restaurants don’t offer their employees many of their career ladders. Because of this, Felice understands that many employees move to other jobs that offer better wages and better hours.

Felice said employers, especially hospitality and retail companies, can raise wages, plan to meet the needs of their employees, and provide career ladders to help workers build their futures. He says it is wise to develop. And she says trends may catch up even if local industry employers still have some way to go.

“I think some employers are very open to this,” Felice said of improving wages and working conditions in restaurants and retail stores. “And with data on the cost of onboarding a new employer, avoiding fluctuation also benefits the employer.”

New chance

According to Jim Futrell, vice president of market research at the Allegheny Conference, a professional community development company, there are only two industries in Pittsburgh that have more jobs than they did before the pandemic: construction and transportation / warehousing.

Transportation and warehousing, including working at locations like Amazon’s distribution centers and warehouses in large grocery stores like the Giant Eagle, may have attracted many workers in the hospitality industry, Futrel said. There is. He said restaurants and other food service venues tend to offer lower wages than any other Pittsburgh industry as Amazon moves to western Allegheny County and Giant Eagle increases its logistics workforce in response to pandemics. He explains that the work in the camp has increased. You can be attracted to these places for better wages.

“There was this big shock to the economy and people started looking for other ways to grow,” said Futrel.

In addition, while restaurants are showing dramatic signs of a labor shortage, the hospitality industry in Pittsburgh is gaining jobs, Futrel said. However, there is still a shortage of travel-related industries that haven’t reopened on a large scale since the pandemic, he says.

Demographic problems

Overall, Futrel said there are several factors likely to contribute to an above-average job recovery in Pittsburgh when compared to other regions. Aside from low wages and other industries that suck up workers, Pittsburgh’s population growth has always been a factor against rising employment.

The Pittsburgh area actually grew for the first time in decades, according to the census, but the growth rate of 0.6% was still well below the national average.

“That’s because of the growing population in the region,” said Futrell. “It attracts workers and creates demand for additional goods and services.”

A sign hung on the door of Super Cuts on the South Side on Thursday, August 12, 2009 (Pittsburgh City Paper Photo).

Chris Briem, an economist at the University of Pittsburgh, cautioned against blaming labor shortages for both problems, saying there are COVID and non-COVID problems, as well as problems in countries that Pittsburgh cannot really control. Specified. For child care and health.

“Some workers were last vaccinated, but I’m not sure that this is still a problem,” said Briem.

But he says that in addition to the slowdown in population growth, Pittsburgh’s demographics may have contributed to the new labor shortage. Briem explains that the Pittsburgh workforce is older than most regions and that COVID has likely driven some retirements. He adds that Pittsburgh is likely to struggle to replace these jobs due to the current lack of students in the area due to the pandemic.

“I think a lot [college students] They tended to get stuck for a while, but they weren’t here to graduate on the spot, ”said Briem. “And if you put them all together, you see a serious shortage of young workers. Most of the other places withdraw, but we don’t. “

Briem said the phenomenon shows the importance of the University of Pittsburgh to the economy as a whole and hopes to remind people of the required role of students in the area.

“You are an undervalued part of the local workforce,” said Briem.

Ryan Deto is a reporter for the Pittsburgh City Paper. Where this story first appeared …

Source Link Why is there a persistent labor shortage in some industries in Pittsburgh?

Comments are closed.