In the media there have been claims that the depressing monthly employment reports are caused by a so-called “labor shortage.” This is political propaganda attacking unemployed workers, blaming the unemployed for the lack of available jobs. It’s being used to cut the meager federal supplemental unemployment benefits of $300 per week for those who lost their jobs because of the pandemic. Twenty-five states are ending the $300 federal supplement and also the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for the self-employed and gig workers.
The PUA is a program that should never be cut, but rather should become a permanent program. A growing number of businesses like Uber and Lyft now call their workforce “independent contractors.” These workers are not covered by traditional unemployment insurance. They are covered by the PUA, which is actually paying benefits to more jobless workers than the regular state unemployment programs.
As for so-called labor shortages, there is only one measure of a labor shortage — wages. In a real labor shortage, wages start rising. Capitalists who face a shortage of qualified workers respond by offering higher wages and/or benefits, while capitalists who risk losing workers will raise wages to retain workers.
But wages are not rising and, for some, are now lower than they were before the pandemic. If wages aren’t rising, it is certain that there is no labor shortage. This was even admitted by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who dismissed claims of labor shortages, saying, “We don’t see wages moving up yet. And presumably we would see that in a really tight labor market.”
Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction