Cases of COVID-19 are on the rise with the highly transmissible Omicron BA.5 variant, and businesses – already struggling with labor shortages – are facing an influx of workers calling in sick.
By the numbers: Between June 29 and July 11, nearly 3.9 million people said they didn’t work because they were either sick with coronavirus symptoms or caring for a sick loved one, according to the latest Census Bureau data.
The big picture: The BA.5 variant is now the dominant strain in the US, is spreading, and companies already affected by pandemic labor shortages may not be able to keep up.
- Sloan Dean, chief executive officer at Dallas-based hotel operator Remington Hotels Inc., told the Wall Street Journal that staff absences due to COVID have increased about 50% in recent weeks.
- Dean told the Journal the company is reaching out to managers and contractors to fill the gaps.
- “[L]Labor force participation doesn’t match what it was before the pandemic,” per the US Chamber of Commerce.
- There would be 3.25 million more workers today if “the percentage of people participating in the labor force was the same as in February 2020.”
- There are also more job openings (11.3 million) than unemployed workers (5.9 million).
The summer of the “revenge trip” it’s also upon us, stretching companies even thinner as Americans are now taking more vacations to compensate for pandemic-related cancellations.
- Nearly 4.8 million people took time off during the week the Census Bureau conducted its household survey in June. During the same period in 2021, about 3.7 million were on vacation.
But, but, but: Summer labor shortages may not be as devastating to businesses as others caused by earlier spikes in virus cases because businesses now know how to operate with fewer staff, Nela Richardson, chief economist at payroll processor ADP, told the WSJ. .
- “That’s part of the learning that’s been going on,” Richardson said, “almost the expectation that workers are going to be out because of Covid, and how do you adjust for that?”
It’s worth to mention: Several states have taken steps to fill gaps in the labor market, including hiring teenagers, raising wages and creating worker incentives, Axios’ Erin Doherty reports.