How the labor shortage affects travel and vacation shopping

A record 4.4 million people voluntarily quit their jobs in September, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As the nationwide labor shortage continues to intensify, retail workers, hospitality and service workers, and truck drivers are particularly scarce. There’s even a shortage of Santa Claus, despite the fact that hiring Santa Claus for appearances now costs over $ 300 an hour.

The ramifications aren’t limited to the American workforce or companies struggling to hire employees. Virtually every sector of the economy is affected by the labor shortage, and the fallout could cause problems with your vacation plans – and your budget.

Some workers have quit their jobs due to coronavirus issues, others have quit for fear of contracting the virus or passing it on to loved ones. Others join a growing movement known as the “Great Resignation”, seeking better working conditions, higher pay, a career change or simply an extended break.

Whatever the reasons workers leave their jobs, it is now more difficult than ever for companies to hire and retain employees. And it could lead to headaches for consumers just in time for the holiday season.

Short-staffed businesses can struggle to fill orders or provide sales support in stores, and many are forced to limit hours or cut back on services. As potential employees gain influence, companies that offer raises and bonuses to attract workers are likely to pass these additional costs on to customers in the form of higher prices.

From travel delays and toy shortages to stockouts at the supermarket, here’s what consumers should be preparing for this holiday season.

Vacation flights and travel problems

The travel industry has been among the hardest hit by the labor shortage. Airlines laid off tens of thousands of workers in 2020, and although they are now hiring as customers fly again, the industry has yet to recoup all of the lost jobs. According to US Department of Transportation data, the number of people employed by airlines in September 2021 was 718,811. In the same month of 2019, that number was 743,100.

When it comes to travel, staff shortages mean reduced service. American Airlines canceled more than 1,000 flights last month, citing bad weather and staffing issues. Southwest also canceled some 2,000 flights recently due to a continuing shortage of workers, and more flight schedule disruptions appear likely during the busy holiday season.

It’s not just your flight that can be canceled or delayed. Staff problems also have an impact on airport services: the Sacramento Bee reported last week, for example, that a shortage of food workers has resulted in the closure of five food and beverage concessions at Sacramento International Airport and forced others to cut their hours.

With the demand for vacation travel increasing – especially now that the United States has lifted the ban on international visitors – travelers need to be prepared for delays, cancellations and other headaches.

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Delayed or out of stock holiday gifts

A shortage of truck drivers and retail workers means that many businesses are struggling to move goods from crowded ports to warehouses and onto shelves. The labor shortage has exacerbated the delays caused by a cranky global supply chain, and the result is that many popular holiday gifts like video game consoles, Pokemon cards, and Squishmallows are already sold out or hard to find.

Meanwhile, Americans are willing to spend more than ever. Deloitte predicts consumers will spend 7-9% more this holiday season than last year.

Bottom Line: If you’ve got a special gift in mind, the best way to avoid delays is to shop early. According to Morning Consult, around half of consumers who have started shopping have already encountered supply chain issues such as stockouts or delayed items. Many big retailers, including Amazon, Target, Walmart, and Wayfair, have early bird discounts, but if you can wait, the best deals can come after the holidays.

Grocery shortages and higher prices

The labor shortage also extends to grocery stores, some of which have reduced their working hours as they struggle to fill vacant positions. Schnucks, a Midwestern grocery chain, announced earlier this fall that it would close most of its stores an hour earlier “in response to the tough job market as well as changing shopping habits among consumers. clients”. The Harris Teeter grocery chain also cut store opening hours in September.

Several large food companies have announced that they are raising prices, in part because of rising labor costs and difficulties finding workers. Oreos, Doritos, Ben & Jerry’s, Skippy Peanut Butter and many more are among the many popular foods that are seeing their prices rise. Unilever, the parent company of ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s, told a distributor in September that it would be phasing out some flavors in favor of more popular ones due to constraints caused by labor shortages.

The current supply chain crisis, which is also causing some inventory issues and shortages on grocery shelves, adds to the challenges for the supermarket workforce. It’s a good idea to shop early, as staples like turkeys and cranberries might be harder to find this year.

If you find what you are looking for in the store, it will likely be a little more expensive than usual due to inflation, which peaked in 30 years of 6.2% on an annual basis in October, with the food prices (at restaurants and at home) up 5.3% over the past 12 months.

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No Santa Claus at the mall

There is another critical position that has been difficult to fill this fall: Santa Claus. The demand for Santa Claus is booming now that Americans are more and more comfortable with face-to-face gatherings. Santas are a particularly hot commodity – especially as many former Santa Claus have retired or retired from work due to coronavirus fears – and today’s active Santas can cost $ 175. $ to $ 300 per hour, on the Wall Street newspaper reported.

There may be a silver lining for those who wish to meet Santa Claus via Zoom: “Yes, we have lost some of the Santa portrait artists due to COVID-19 and other illnesses, and other causes such as retirement, ”Ed Taylor, founder of the Worldwide Santa Claus Network said in a statement Monday. But he added: “We also have a lot of new first year Santa Claus and a lot of Santa Claus choosing to provide virtual tours… Santa’s virtual tours have changed everything.”

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