The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that a net 701,000 Americans lost their jobs during the month of March. This figure likely greatly understates the true numbers since most of the survey was conducted before the wave of business closures late in the month, as indicated by unemployment claims numbering in the millions.
CBS News aired a report today featuring a Georgia farmer worried about losing his crops. If the crops aren’t picked on time, they will be lost. The reason they may go unpicked was a shortage of workers. Seems border closings limit the supply of laborers from Central America. There are also widespread reports of mass hiring by grocery stores and delivery services as more consumers choose to prepare meals at home and have necessities delivered.
Apparently a large number of workers are looking for work at the same time that vital work risks going undone. This suggests that a sizable portion of the unemployment problem isn’t a fundamental shortage of work, but our economy’s failure to efficiently match workers to employers.
Meanwhile if this work doesn’t get done, there is a real risk of starvation in the midst of plenty. The government can rain money all it wants, but if no one picks the crops or distributes the groceries no one will eat, either.
The farmer was asked why not hire Americans? He replied that, unfortunately, it was hard work that most Americans didn’t want to do. If so, we can only conclude that a large part of the unemployment problem is voluntary.
If they truly want to solve the unemployment problem, figuring out why people would rather not take available jobs needs to be taken into account by policymakers.