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CoastLine: The great American work reassessment is creating a labor shortage, more employers willing to train unqualified job applicants

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Employers are having such a hard time finding warm bodies to show up for work they’re more eager than ever to make jobs appealing and train workers for positions they might not have previously even considered them for.

There is a labor shortage across the country and in the Cape Fear region. Some are calling it the Great American Work Reassessment. Others – the Great Resignation. The Wall Street Journal reports the number of American workers leaving their jobs is at the highest level since the year 2000. According to Forbes, a record 8.1 million jobs are unfilled. Axios puts that number at 9.3 million, and many more workers say they still plan to leave their jobs.

In southeastern North Carolina, at least one local official with NC Works Career Centers claims many people left the Cape Fear region during the pandemic, putting a further strain on the talent pool.

The labor shortage is affecting local businesses large and small. As the critical summer tourist season unfolds in a post-pandemic North Carolina, you might already be seeing the shortage manifest in a few ways, including higher prices for meals and longer wait times in restaurants. Leisure and hospitality, a key part of this region’s economic engine, dropped by 50% during the pandemic. And while the demand is coming back, the labor force is not.

The unemployment rate, which tells us how many people are not working but actively looking for work, has fallen consistently in North Carolina, since its peak at the beginning of the pandemic in April 2020. This April, unemployment rates decreased in 91 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. Brunswick County was a full point over the statewide rate (4.4%) at 5.4%, but that’s also a huge improvement from this time last year when Brunswick County’s rate was almost 18%. New Hanover and Pender Counties were a bit lower in April at 3.9% and 3.8% respectively, but they were also hitting double-digit rates this time last year.

Some claim that generous pandemic unemployment benefits have negatively impacted the workforce – preventing people from feeling the need to find a job. But North Carolina recently reinstated pre-pandemic requirements for those benefits – which include showing proof one is actively working for work.

Employers are having such a hard time finding warm bodies to show up for work they’re more eager than ever to make jobs appealing and train workers for positions they might not have previously even considered them for.

Guests:

Adam Jones, Regional Economist in the Swain Center and Cameron School of Business at the University of North Carolina Wilmington; Economics Professor, Chair of the Economics and Finance Department, UNCW

Erin Easton, Business Engagement Manager for the Cape Fear Workforce Development Board, which oversees NC Works Career Centers in Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover, and Pender Counties

Resources: NC Career Centers: https://www.ncworks.gov/vosnet/Default.aspx

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Rachel hosts and produces WHQR's local public affairs and variety show, CoastLine, which she helped to create. Before joining WHQR, Rachel wrote and produced local TV newscasts for the Wilmington ABC-TV affiliate. She also wrote and produced a 30-minute TV special program for the Cape Fear Museum showcasing its renovation and new exhibits, and she independently wrote and produced a documentary on the lingering effects of the 1898 coup d'etat in Wilmington.