If you regularly scan newspapers, TV news or the Internet, you know that one of the persistent problems facing the nation right now is unemployment. Even though the Great Recession officially ended, according to economists, last year, unemployment has remained stubbornly high. According to statistics from the U.S. Labor Department, the nation’s unemployment rate stands at 9.6%.
As for why this is the case, economists are divided. There is one camp that thinks that employers are reluctant to hire more workers without clear signs that consumer spending is back in full swing. But another blames the down housing market for keeping skilled and unskilled potential workers from moving to the cities and states were jobs are available. “The kinds of skills [the unemployed have] and the locations where they live are not particularly job matches with available jobs,” says Stephen Davis, professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.
Of course, this employment dilemma is nothing new to the ag retail market. For several years, retailers polled in our CropLife 100 survey have listed finding employees as one of the biggest obstacles to sustaining market growth.
This year is no exception. Consider this comment from one CropLife 100 retailer: “Because it is just about impossible to find help, we were forced to sell off our chemical custom application business.” Even worse, this sale led to the dealership laying off two long-time employees that worked in this part of the company.
How our industry and the nation correct this problem is complex. To get potential workers to places that are hiring could involve some kind of financial assistance in the home-selling process. Also, more re-training should be considered, helping displaced workers from one field cross over into a new one.
What’s clear is that ag retailers need to address this issue, perhaps now like never before. Based upon the statistics, there are plenty of people out there looking for work. Somehow, industry leaders must convince them that agriculture is a viable option . . .