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Why is North Alabama seeing a labor shortage?

The pandemic has taken a large toll on everyone and left a lasting impact on the workforce.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — For months, labor shortages have been a popular topic and not just here in Northern Alabama, but across the entire nation.

"This is not a problem that's unique to Huntsville, this is something we hear about on the national news," said Huntsville/Madison County Chamber Vice President of Marketing and Communications Claire Aiello. "People have reevaluated things since the pandemic started and they, you know, they have a number of reasons that they haven't come back to the workplace childcare is a big one. That's one that had- that affects people from being able to go to work if they can't find adequate childcare or childcare they can afford. So that's one factor."

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The pandemic has taken a large toll on everyone and left a lasting impact on the workforce.

"I mean, what is it almost 800,000 Americans have passed away from this disease now," said University of Alabama College of Business Associate Dean Dr. Wafa Orman. "The majority of them were elderly, but a nontrivial portion of them are actually working age people. I mean, that's going to have an effect."

Another reason we could be seeing an increased demand for workers is indirectly related to the pandemic: A slowdown of immigration.

"Because of the pandemic, even legal immigration is down. A lot of people just can't move around. And then, illegal or undocumented immigration has been down for the last few years," said Dr. Orman.

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People are also wanting more from their jobs, or even starting up their own businesses instead.

"Some people don't want to go back to a job that doesn't pay enough of a living wage," said Aiello. "They're looking to make a better wage and, you know, make it worth their while to go to work and then have a life after work."

"Wage growth is something we like," said Dr. Orman. "Unless you're the person that has to pay those higher wages, right. So, for employers, what this does is it kind of puts the squeeze on them. So, what do they do? Well, they raise prices, and a lot of that we're seeing right so we're seeing this in the inflation numbers. We're seeing prices increase because if employers have to pay higher wages, they're just passing that along to customers as best as they can as much as they can."

Not only are we seeing things get more expensive, but companies may also end up taking alternatives to hiring more workers.

"We're gonna see more businesses actually trying to automate as much as possible," said Dr. Orman. "If you can't find people to do the job, you're going to do the job with fewer people and more machines."