Even after $300 extra federal unemployment checks came to an end nationally Sept. 6, job applicants—qualified or just barely breathing — didn’t come pouring through employers’ doors. On farms, at the manufacturing plants and in farm equipment dealerships, workers are scarce despite signing bonuses, higher starting wages and additional benefits.
Owen Palm, CEO of 21st Century Equipment, a 16-dealership John Deere network straddling Nebraska, Wyoming and Colorado borders, thought an end to the pandemic-driven extra unemployment checks would bring him some people looking for jobs. It did not, he told Joel Reichenbergerfar, Progressive Farmer senior editor in October.
"We were hoping things would loosen up a bit," Palm said. "Nebraska was one of the first states to terminate those extended benefits [in May] and we saw absolutely no movement in terms of available employees. It wasn't even a blip on the radar."
"Sometimes you have to break paradigms," Deanna Kovar, vice president of production for John Deere, told Reichenbergerfar . The manufacturer has a reported 500 job vacancies globally.
Like so many employers globally, Palm has upped starting wages, offered bonuses, added to benefits packages and will pay customers and current staff alike just for legitimate referrals.
ING noted to CNBC that the United States has regained all of the lost economic output brought about by the pandemic . Despite incentive packages, worker shortages are holding back output — seen in the backlog in new farm equipment delivery dates — and increasing inflation pressures.
In addition, current workers have been quitting at near-record rates for 6 months, reports Business Insider.
JPMorgan chief global strategist David Kelly noted some reasons: people saved and feel no urgency to return to work; problems getting child or parent care; retirement; immigration; and employees available don’t match the jobs to fill or where they want to work. Kelly said it could take years to resolve.
"I think [the labor shortage is] going to drive the shift toward autonomy, autonomous tractors," Palm said. "Our customers are having these same issues finding help, so any product Deere can come out with that reduces the amount of labor or the skill level that's required, that's certainly going to speed up the adoption rate compared to if we had full employment. I see autonomous tractors, vehicles, technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, things that reduce labor or reduce the skill level of labor, those are going to be the big winners."
Meanwhile, universities and technical colleges especially in agriculturally dependent rural areas are beefing up their autonomous program studies as well as student scholarships. Yet so are welding and mechanic programs.