It’s the shopping season in the United States, but the hot scene of the traditional “Black Friday” has not reappeared in the U.S. market. The data shows that although the passenger flow of retail stores has increased compared with last year, the overall traffic is still deserted and even drags down online sales. Unlike last year’s epidemic, this year’s bleak “Black Friday” also superimposes the supply chain crisis.
An important reason for the mountainous containers in the port and the empty shelves of supermarkets are also rare, which is the shortage of labor. It is reported that in the United States, due to labor shortages, the labor market is changing and even beginning to rely on an unexpected group – “child laborers”. And teenagers have now become one of the largest components of the employed population in the United States.
The U.S. labor market is “most tense” in 70 years
In fact, labor shortage has become one of the hottest topics in American society this year.
Earlier, on November 15, local time, Anita Markworthka, chief financial economist of Jeffrey Financial Group, a famous Wall Street investment bank, reported that “The United States is entering the most tense labor market environment since the 1950s, so wage pressure is unlikely to ease next year, even if the supply chain The bottleneck weakens, and the inflation rate will remain high.”
The focus of this report is on inflation in the United States, but “labour shortage” has become the keyword. Factors related to the epidemic have depressed the labor supply in the United States, causing the “most tight” in 70 years; more data show that the impact of labor shortage on the U.S. CPI has been close to 1 percentage point over the past year.
Due to the impact of the epidemic, many people have quit their jobs or been unable to return to the labor market, including 180 million women. Due to the inability of nurseries to provide services and the closure measures imposed by schools, many women have to stay at home to take care of their children. This is a structural change. In the process of large-scale repetition of the global epidemic, it is unknown how long this situation will last.
Moreover, according to the data of the Cato Institute, the number of work visas issued by the United States to foreigners has decreased by 1 million during the pandemic. This is also one of the reasons for its labor shortage. Although the tightening of foreigner work visas during the Trump administration period was relaxed during the Biden period, the restrictions have not fundamentally improved in the ongoing state of the epidemic.
On October 21, the Federal Reserve issued a beige book entitled “Summary of Comments on the Current Economic Situation” and also pointed out that labor shortages and supply chain bottlenecks are curbing growth and driving up inflation. The beige book is the Federal Reserve’s overview of the economic situation in the United States. It is based on the survey of the current economic situation by 12 local Federal Reserves and is published 8 times a year. In the published beige book, the labor shortage was mentioned 26 times, compared with the number in the January beige book only 6 times.
“Do you have a child aged 14 or 15?”
Some American companies use teenage employees all year round to fill the labor shortage, such as recruiting teenagers to work as temporary workers at McDonald’s. Although it is not uncommon, it is not common to specifically call on teenagers of fourteen or fifteen years old to work.
In September this year, McDonald’s in Medford, Oregon, called on fourteen or fifteen-year-olds to work, with a striking banner saying: Now it is recruiting teenagers between the ages of 14 and 15.
Heather Kennedy, the store manager, said that in her family’s 40-year history of running McDonald’s branches, this labor shortage was “unheard of”. At first, she only tried to attract employees by raising the minimum hourly salary, but this did not attract enough interest, so she had to lower the entry threshold to under 16.
Chain brands such as Burger King have also issued similar notices. Earlier this year, a Burger King restaurant in Ohio wrote on its signboard, “Do you have children aged 14 or 15? Do they need a job? We will hire them!”
On November 28, Fox News reported that Sarah Aquino, deputy mayor of Forson, California, worked part-time in restaurants to alleviate labor shortages. Her work includes cleaning tables, booking rooms, folding napkins and guiding customers to sit down. She said, “I’m in partnership with the chef. We are basically there when the restaurant opens, unless I have to attend the city council meeting.”
The deputy mayor’s move may be just a gimmick. Its main purpose is to call on everyone to come out to work instead of lying flat at home, exacerbating the labor shortage in American society.
“Child labor” cannot solve the problem of labor shortage
In the United States, teenagers still face legal problems when working.
Under the U.S. Federal Child Labor Law, during June 1 to U.S. Labor Day (the first Monday of September), young people under the age of 16 can work between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., and the rest can work between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
To this end, Wisconsin approved a new bill on October 27 to allow teenagers between the ages of 14 and 15 to work from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. when they have classes the next day; if there is no class the next day, the working hours are from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Compared with federal law, Wisconsin’s new bill increases the legal working hours of teenagers by a full 5 hours, indeed asking teenagers for time to “child labor” in an attempt to alleviate the state’s labor shortage.
State Senator Mary Felskaowski and Representative Laudenbeck made it clear in testifying to the State Labor and Regulatory Reform Commission that the bill would help small businesses alleviate labor shortages during the busy summer. The state restaurant association also supported this, saying that extending the working hours of teenagers can help solve the staffing problem of the catering industry.
In early October, Ohio senators also submitted a bill to increase the working hours of 14- and 15-year-olds. At the federal level, truck transportation companies will also be allowed to recruit drivers with a minimum age of 18 in an apprenticeship program. According to the current federal law, the minimum age for this job is 21.
Asking teenagers for working time is an embodiment of American society and culture. They also encourage teenagers to go out to earn pocket money by themselves. However, attempts to alleviate the labor shortage by lowering the age limit and extending the working hours of teenagers are doomed not to have much effect – on the one hand, it is the largest wave of resignations in history, and on the other hand, the labor shortage has reached the highest in 70 years. This structural contradiction created by the epidemic and social policies are difficult to do in the short term.