Monday, July 26, 2021

USA Today: labor shortage isn't a result of COVID deaths

An interesting fact check on a question that I wondered myself: is the current seeming difficulty for hiring workers about people who died during COVID? USA Today says no: 

There is currently no data counting the number of American workers who died of COVID-19. However, even the most conservative estimates rule out the possibility that deaths caused or significantly contributed to the current shortage.

One reason is that we know the virus was far more lethal for older Americans than for working-age Americans. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a total of 596,740 people had died of COVID-19 as of July 12. Of this number, 75% were 65 years of age or older. And 57% were over 75 years of age.

Seventy-five is far above the minimum retirement age of 62 years and the full retirement age of 66 years and two months, at which retirees can claim full Social Security benefits.

For a very conservative estimate, we could assume all of the COVID-19 victims under 75 years of age were active members of the workforce. 

In that case, COVID-19 deaths would account for only 7.3% of the 3.5 million people who are no longer in the workforce.

That number drops to 4.3% if we take a more reasonable but still conservative approach, assuming that 20% of the people between 65 and 74 were still working, in line with a 2019 AARP survey.

Makes sense. I really like this little comment from a former commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics: 

However, a "shortage" doesn't just imply a simple lack of workers or a lack of workers with the right skills. According to Erica Groshen, a Cornell University labor economist who served as commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2014-2017, it means that available workers are not willing to accept the pay and benefits of available jobs.

“I'm not a big believer in overall labor shortages,” she said. “When the price of a car goes up, we don't declare a car shortage…you always have to say (the shortage is) 'at the wages that the employers are offering.’"

I like the cut of her jib! 


  1. I have no sympathy whatsoever for employers right now. It was only a few decades ago that pizzerias and fast food places were staffed by teenagers, and the only adult in the place was the manager. Today, they're whining and crying that no one wants to work 20 hours a week for minimum wage, but insist that applicants must be over 18. It was almost impossible to get an adult to do a job like that in the 1980s and 90s and no one noticed, and now the same thing is happening and businesses are crying a river about it.

    With white-collar jobs, companies are still doing the same things they did when they used to get a thick pile of resumes and had to narrow them down quickly. What they're going to need to do is look more closely at the ones that would have gotten eliminated quickly last year. I've had weak-on-paper candidates turn into strong ones after a phone screen.

    1. I dont understand what the companies are crying about. It's a free market! The reason nobody is applying to your open position is because there are better positions or opportunities elsewhere, duh. The solution is often quite sample, raise your compensation. We are not living in the communist ages where people get assigned to a job after they turn 18.
      I wonder if any company is stupid enough to be like "well we used to have a selection rate of 1/20 and we're going to keep that." The number of resumes handed in should easily decide how many people moves onto phone interview - if only 2 people are applying you better call all of them.

    2. This is exactly what I did for a technician job I'm trying to fill - I gave every local applicant a phone screen, even the weak-looking ones. Several people who looked weak on paper turned out to be strong candidates. A big company's ATS system would have thrown out almost all of the applicants before a human saw them, and they'd be whining about a failed search and re-posting the job for months.

      Right now I've got five finalists, and I wish I could hire all five of them. I have no sympathy whatsoever for anyone crying about not being able to fill positions.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20