How real is the reported labor shortage?

I saw the WSJ article about cities that are paying people to move to them. I know the media has a tendency to sometimes create a trend out of isolated incidents. Has it really gotten this bad?

This thread is for anecdotal accounts of what FDers are seeing in their companies/cities/personal lives concerning the historically low unemployment rates.

This is an automatically-generated Wiki post for this new topic. Any member can edit this post and use it as a summary of the topic’s highlights.

I do see help wanted / hiring signs all over the place.

Unemployment is 4.1% here in Oregon so its not super low. Yet thats still around record low for us.

We don’t have to pay people to move here though. We actually might be better paying people to not move here.


There is an incredible shortage of workers. I don’t think there is a big shortage of people willing to be employees.


It’s a free market. No shortage of workers.
Shortage of employers willing to pay enough to draw in new employees (including relocation costs and incentives), and instead wanting subsidies to manipulate the labor market? Always.

If the business can’t sustain profits with “market price” labor, then the business needs to shut down while the more efficient businesses grow – that’s just capitalism.


When the low-wage employers (retail, restaurants, hospitality, and others) start providing predictable full-time schedules with good health insurance, retirement, etc. (rather than making everyone part-time to dodge the ACA employer mandate), you’ll know the “shortage” is real. Right now it’s not.


Keep in mind, the Unemployment Rate can decline because more people are employed, but also because of a decline in the Labor Force Participation Rate, meaning fewer workers in the labor pool.



Series Id: CES0000000001
Seasonally Adjusted
Series Title: All employees, thousands, total nonfarm, seasonally adjusted
Super Sector: Total nonfarm
Industry: Total nonfarm
NAICS Code: -

Not real at all. Is there a shortage of people willing to work? Maybe. Is there a shortage of people able to work? No - Still a lot of people out of the labor force. Even as the unemployment rate has fallen the number of people not in the labor force has remained constant.

There are people pulling the cart and there are others riding in the cart. Those getting a free ride are enjoying it and aren’t going to decide to help pull unless there is welfare reform or wages rise enough to entice them to give up their government handouts.



Series Id: LNS15000000
Seasonally Adjusted
Series title: (Seas) Not in Labor Force
Labor force status: Not in labor force
Type of data: Number in thousands
Age: 16 years and over


I have a “friend” that haven’t worked in a real job for about a decade because the job he want won’t hire him he’s not willing to take a job beneath him. Funny thing is that he is a Trumpy and keep point at other “lazy people”.

…First World… sigh…


The ‘Labor Force Participation Rate’ hit an all time high at the end of Clinton’s terms, simultaneous with a 3.9% ‘Unemployment Rate’.


I read the OP being about shortages in certain local markets, not about employers generally not willing to pay enough. A college grad from UCLA looking to make 60k probably isn’t looking at any employers in these cities offering incentives. They have a hard time getting people to look there at all, even if they’re paying rates similar to rates in large markets but adjusted for cost of living differences.

Is it blown out of proportion? I think so, no real surprise there. But, is there a shortage in certain local markets looking to be the next Austin? I think so, and that’s why the cities are offering the incentives in the first place. It is sort of a question of whether the chicken comes before the egg though. So the incentives could simply be the city’s way of getting educated people to move there so that companies will be able to/ want to set up operations there.

My company can’t even find good people, alot can’t even pass drug tests.
Some think the work is too hard, and leave at lunch time never to return.


Same problem here. We pay about $17 an hour starting wage for unskilled work with annual raises. It’s not easy, they have to pass a test but no college degree required and the test isn’t too hard (imho). Nevertheless many quit at lunch, one person said “this job isn’t worth my life” (it was a cold day and you are outside for 6-7 hours. Hardly life threatening) We are filling the jobs but our retention rate is only about 50% - some we let go, many vote with their feet and don’t come back.

1 Like

What kind of work?

Well quite obviously most people can’t get office management jobs. So the choice clearly isn’t between hard labor or making 4x as a management in a corner office.

You’re generally underestimating the qualifications for office work. and/or overestimating the skills of the average uneducated American.

Some might be better off with a fluky clerical job than doing hard labor but they may not be able to handle that or just don’t think they’re qualified/ capable or simply don’t want to.


Two things:

  1. It’s not a 100% free market, as you allude to later in your point about businesses rent seeking .
  2. Even when a market is 100% free, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be in equilibrium 24/7/365. There are all kinds of reasons that there is a shortage of skilled labor. I think the Mike Rowes of the world had some very good points about it, even though some of their points might me overstated.

One of the reasons that the skill labor market is out of equilibrium longer than you would expect it to be in a mostly free market is because there is a shortage across the board. If it was just a few local markets, or a few particular employers, then you could say that they just aren’t willing to pay the market wages. But when it’s the case all over with almost all employers, it’s more likely that the gap is more on the employee side, not the employer side.

I didn’t miss your point.

But I thought that the tired thesis that govt. pays people not to work, was overshadowed by the mistaken idea that people should just manage an office for 4x the pay instead of digging ditches.



Well I’d like to think I would try but I honestly probably couldn’t handle it. I’m old, soft and weak now given decades of sitting on my butt for a living.
If you’d offered me a 6 figure job out of highschool digging ditches I’d have probably taken it. (edit, on reflection, I’m very sure I would have taken it as I was actually doing manual labor for like $6 that summer and happy to get $6)
In fact I know a guy that ended up that route, but they actually call it excavation for oil pipelines.

Fair point.