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‘Labor Shortage’ ‘Could Bring Life-Changing Opportunities For Low-Wage’ Workers - Pay ‘Rising Quickly’ For Service Jobs As ‘Many Workers Have Moved On For More Money Elsewhere’

Published Wednesday, July 14, 2021
by Jacob Steimer/
‘Labor Shortage’ ‘Could Bring Life-Changing Opportunities For Low-Wage’ Workers - Pay ‘Rising Quickly’ For Service Jobs As ‘Many Workers Have Moved On For More Money Elsewhere’

A new banner outside McDonald’s advertises $13.50-per-hour wages for Team Members and $17 for Shift Leaders.  Inside, Debbie Cook is collecting her latest paycheck, reflecting the $13-an-hour rate she’s being paid as a full-time Shift Manager after eight years working here

Her bosses have promised she’ll receive a raise soon to reflect the new pay rates, but she’s not planning on sticking around, she said.

Friends at the grocery store she used to work at let her know the store is looking for a new full-time assistant manager, whom they’ll pay $17 per hour.

She’s hopeful her application will be accepted.

As the sole provider for two adult sons who are mentally ill, Cook said the extra cash would go a long way toward her being able to make ends meet.

McDonald’s offers health insurance to Shift Managers, but Cook couldn’t afford to add her sons to the policy. 

“(A raise) will help me out a lot,” said Cook, 55. “I have to make sure their meds are taken care of, as well as paying bills and everything else.”

Paying bills isn’t a matter Cook takes lightly.

During her time at the world’s largest restaurant chain, she’s been evicted three times - a “horrible experience” she never wants to face again.

There is currently an unprecedented number of jobs being advertised in the U.S. - 9.2 million as of May, the most recent month for which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has data - while there are about 2.6 million, or 1.5%, fewer people who are either employed or say they’re looking for work than there were in 2019.

Because of this, there is only one American looking for work for every advertised job, a rate it took about eight years to reach after a peak of 6.9% in 2009 during the Great Recession.

To be sure, the available jobs don’t necessarily match the qualifications or geographic location of the people looking for work, but the rate conveys a jobs market nearly as tight as the one that existed pre-Coronavirus Pandemic.

And these conditions are leading to rising wages, especially in low-pay service jobs like in restaurants and grocery stores.

The unusual labor dynamics have raised concerns over inflation, frustrated employers and sparked a national debate over unemployment payments.

For people like Cook, though, it’s brought a potentially life-changing opportunity. 

The “labor shortage” has dominated local and national discussions about the economy in recent months, as restaurants, hotels and other businesses have struggled to return their Staffs to pre-pandemic levels. 

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