The foliage is at its peak, if you hadn’t noticed. This means that we share the space with a lot of non-Vermonters. Generally, we are very grateful when people “from afar” stop by and deposit their money in our stores and restaurants. Main Street loves the tourist season.

But it’s made much more difficult when the demand for Vermont by non-Vermonters doesn’t match the supply we can supply. We want to provide, of course, but this fall has been devoted to the struggle that accompanies the shortage of workers.

Do you think we’re joking or exaggerating? Find out how many establishments – capitalizing on the fourth quarter bump that occurs every Labor Day to Christmas – have Help Wanted signs in their window. It’s a thing. And calling it “one thing” will sound insulting to hanging-by-a-thread business leaders.

A few weeks ago around Labor Day, national newspapers ran comments detailing just how difficult the labor shortage had become. It is not a coincidence; This is the problem.

A press release that went to our email on Tuesday took the issue to another level here in Vermont. The title of the release was “Chronic Staff Shortages Threaten Operation of Local Child Care Programs.”

It opens bluntly: “Across Vermont, child care providers are reporting continued and now worsening hiring problems coupled with symptoms of illness that keep teachers at home. , result in conditions that compromise their ability to keep their doors open – and there is no end in sight. Cracks in the system widen as programs scramble to find interim measures that include temporary shutdowns, reduced hours of operation, and the placement of administrators in the classroom almost daily. … The hiring challenges that have always existed have reached a breaking point.

The press release goes on to detail the hardships COVID has imposed on parents and providers.

“Suppliers are launching an immediate ARPA fundraising appeal to stabilize existing child care programs as well as the current workforce and develop a new fully funded recruiting and mentoring system to increase the workforce by nursery. What is clear is that the status quo will mean fewer childcare opportunities for children and families in Vermont, ”the statement said.

The need is dire, not only for child care, but also for families.

On USA Today recently, reporter Paul Davidson asked two simple questions: Where’s the job? And when does it come back?

“Experts don’t know if, and to what extent, unemployment insurance has really discouraged people from working. And the recent rise in COVID-19 infections, driven by the delta variant, is disrupting plans to reopen some schools and deterring some idle workers from renewing their job searches, ”he wrote.

The article goes on to highlight how deep the struggles of the workforce are.

“They include the large chunk of workers who decided to change careers during the pandemic or to retire early after a layoff and the daunting logistics of matching millions of unemployed with millions of openings,” he said. -he writes. “This means that endless waits for a restaurant table, queues at store cash registers, and multi-month delays for home renovations may be partially alleviated in the coming months, but are expected to remain in some form. or some other longer term. “

And, he notes, fears related to COVID-19 persist. People thought the worst was behind us.

In June, there was a record 10.1 million job vacancies and 9.5 million unemployed – the latter figure fell to 8.4 million in August – leaving less than one worker jobless for every Vacancy. The COVID outbreak is also reducing customer demand and led to disappointing 235,000 job creation in August, Davidson reported.

In July, 49% of small business owners said they had vacancies they couldn’t fill – the highest number on record – according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

According to Davidson’s report: The United States recovered 17 million, or 76%, of the 22.4 million jobs lost last spring as states closed businesses to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, leaving the payroll 5.3 million jobs below their pre-pandemic level. About half of these nearly 6 million missing workers are unemployed, which means they are looking for a job but cannot find one or are very selective.

The loss of unemployment benefits had no effect. Several studies have shown that improved benefits have had little effect on whether beneficiaries seek more jobs or accept offers. Many people have decided to either change careers or “not to settle down”. In fact, a near record 3.9 million workers actually left their jobs in June.

The labor shortage is real and ongoing. It seems unprecedented. It seems impossible. But as communities, we need to work to get the hires that keep the economic engine running. This is how we overcome.

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