Where are the Missing Workers? 

Statistics reveal additional reasons behind the current worker shortage 


Millions of workers have yet to return to the job market, while there is a near-record number of job openings. Why? Below, we take a deeper dive into the top reasons workers are quitting, or not applying for work at all. According to the U.S. Labor Department’s August’s 2021 Job Openings and Labor Turnover stats and the U.S. Census Bureau’s September 2021 Household Pulse Survey, here are the top five issues:   


1) Workers continue to cite Covid-related fears. 

The pandemic appears to be the most immediate cause of fewer job applicants, being cited as the number one issue for employees not wanting to return to work.  The specific concerns cited by workers are: Continuing fear of catching Covid, a perceived lack of safety protocols at the worksite, confusion over conflicting vaccine mandates and the controversy over medical and religious exemptions, and the fear of physical attacks and verbal harassment by customers over mask mandates and vaccine card enforcement. As the pandemic subsides, this issue will likely fade. 


2) Older workers are taking early retirement. 

Since September 2021, there are 3.6 million who are no longer in the labor force, stating that they did not want a job, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of that 3.6 million, 89% were aged 55 or older. Older workers are opting into Social Security and are tapping into their retirement accounts to subsidize their earlier-than-planned retirement. While this choice may be pandemic related, experts believe these older workers will not return to the workforce in any significant numbers again. 


4) Care responsibilities block commitment to a work schedule. 

According to the Household Pulse Survey, caretaking responsibilities have made it challenging for workers—especially those who can’t work from home—to commit to a regular work schedule. Workers in the service and hospitality sectors cite the lack of a set work schedule, or a constantly changing schedule, as a barrier to employment, while over a quarter of a million workers stated they were not working or looking for work due to caring for an older person. For workers with children, uncertain school schedules due to Covid outbreaks are still challenging parents’ ability to hold or commit to a steady job. As in-person schooling becomes more consistent and predictable, this trend is likely to reverse.  


5) The Great Resignation: A tsunami of quitting.  

Work-life uncertainty and upheaval amid the pandemic have led to a realignment of worker’s career priorities. Top reasons for quitting are higher pay and a “better” job—one that promises benefits or a clear career track. Many workers cite leaving due to increased workload and longer hours caused by a shortage of co-workers. A lack of flexible work scheduling or employers who will not offer the option to work remotely has also pushed employees to seek more accommodating employers. While these changes in employee expectations have coincided with the pandemic, they will likely continue to drive employees either to or away from employers. 


What can an employer do? 

The best thing an employer can do is get competitive. Understanding what motivates your employees and acknowledging the challenges employees face in their private lives may be the key to retaining your current workers and attracting new talent. The work begins in evaluating your workplace culture and your ability to change your company policies to accommodate these employee concerns.  


Let cardinal services help! Give us a call. We offer products and services that can help you keep or attract great workers. Call (800) 342-4742 to speak with one of our employment experts.