The Nahployment 'Crisis'

I can tell you from 20+ years of working in multi-unit retail/foodservice corporate (and because of several acquisitions many “ways of working”), that hours worked are converted into FTEs and that is what we look at as “operating headcount” 99% of the time. The only reason you would track live bodies is if you were paying for health care or other per head assessment.

Note that if you keep people active buy give them no hours, they can file for unemployment and as far as I know they will be considered to be laid off by every state’s Labor Department.

There is a associate turnover metric, maybe they are manipulating that, but I would suspect that the cause is just administrative screw-ups where people are not getting terminated by sheer laziness or bad procedures.

I think that we are in agreement here that leaving people on payroll who are not working is not an effective way of hiding understaffing. Do want to just point out that FTE is Full Time Equivalent, for anyone not in the know. (And to be honest, even after having had a business for several years, the first time I came across that term was when I was filling out paperwork for PPP loans last year.) So, having 2 people working 20 each hours is 1 FTE. Having 10 people on payroll who aren’t working is 0 FTE.

Yeah, it’s not as if the Department of Jobs and Family Services has direct access to your payroll database. Though this sounds more like voluntary separation on the employee’s part, not termination due to lack of work, so they would not be eligible in most states.

Or the forlorn hope that they come back, where leaving them in the system means that they don’t have to re-hire them.

In any case, it wouldn’t make any sense for store managers to try to hide their understaffing. They don’t set wages or benefits, they don’t do the advertising for jobs. If the upper echelons of the corporation don’t know that the stores can’t find staff, they will not take measures to make employment more attractive to potential candidates.

Buncha people who enjoyed Atlas Shrugged, a novel about business owners going on strike by refusing to work anymore, are not happy about their ex-employees making this decision in real time.

Hey, I enjoyed that book.

It functioned very effectively as a doorstop for nearly a decade.

When did they start allowing their headcount to have 40 hours per week?

My experience has been that the hour limit for requiring provision of benefits is the hardest ceiling imaginable.

My experience is different. Having worked quite a number of fast food restaurants, as well as having many acquaintances who also do, the majority of employees are scheduled about 40 hours. (Usually a little less, as going into OT is very frowned upon.)

Good one JT! That’s quotable.

Oddly enough, given my words here at the Dope, it’s one of my all-time favorite novels.

A couple thoughts on what’s going on and what I see as false assertions/narratives:

  1. As much as being working class sucks, there are “unskilled” jobs that pay a lot more than fast food and similar and aren’t that difficult to get or keep. I make over $20/hr working in a warehouse as my “day job” now. You could say I have some degree of privilege as I’ve never been in a position to acquire a dubious criminal record, I’ve never had to work fast food or gas stations or similar. I don’t use drugs and think they should all be legal, but that and background check are the only thing really keeping people from going from $8/hr to $15-20. And honestly part of it is the ability to show up on time and live on a schedule, etc. I come from a freelance/entrepreneurial do everything on my own terms and timeline life. So I’m not the biggest stickler for conformity but it is what it is.

  2. People say that it’s much easier and more lucrative to be on unemployment, and everyone is taking advantage. Why work? I actually know several people who worked multiple jobs who lost them all a year ago. entire industries and companies shut down and never came back. EVERYONE I know who filed for unemployment went months with $0 income. Some are STILL trying to call and file claims from march 2020 or waiting on appeals. Yes, a lot of people got the “extra” but most had to wait and faced lack of food and basic supplies, utility disconnections, etc while waiting to hear back from unemployment. Very few IMHO are better off now and fewer still would prefer not to work. My mother was basically forced into early retirement because her employer wanted her to be considered “essential” when it wasn’t and she is in a high risk group.

  3. “Gigs” can make more money than working in fast food, MAYBE. But most don’t when you actually do the math. OK, maybe as much as or more than fast food but not much else. Again as sucky as working class jobs are they at least pay FICA and many low end jobs provide medical/dental/vision, 401k match, etc. If you are doing “gigs” you are a self employed business owner in most places, but with all of the obligations and few of the benefits one would typically think of when it comes to being your own boss. Flexibility on hours is about it. The companies have way more control than they should of non-employees, among other things. and you can’t go by gross revenue when you have to pay both halves of FICA in the form of SE tax on every dollar of “profit” and you are using wear and tear on your personal vehicle (most gig workers also risk going without appropriate insurance).

Do the math on Gigs. I see plenty of people claim they make $1000 a week on Door Dash. then you dig deeper and that’s basically gross business revenue, and they work 120 hours. I belong to several gig economy groups. People post earnings. Others point out they were “dashing” for 120 hours to make $1000 before expenses (several hundred, not counting the doubled FICA and other taxes). They say “nah, I was idling or waiting for an order 70 hours, I was only really driving 50 hours.” Sorry, if you are active and logged onto an app waiting for gigs, you are on the job IMHO. That’s like having a phone sales job and sitting at a desk 16 hours a day but saying you only work 8 hours because you were only on the phone that much. Then you have expenses. Dashers bragging about income never reveal how many miles they drive or whatever. They say “I only used $20 gas.” Or I filled up twice. They don’t want to tell you they drove 600 miles because that automatically subtracts about $350 from their income. Let’s say someone legit made $1000 over 50 hours. “that’s 20 bucks an hour!” Nope. It’s typical they had around $300 in car expenses. So let’s say we are at $700 for the week. You pay around a $50 penalty for being “self employed.” Ok, now you are at $650 for 50 hours. Over 40 hours is at least time-and-a-half almost everywhere. So that’s the equivalent of working 55 hours at base pay. A lot of employers don’t offer OT, but he warehouse I work offers up to 20 hours a week of OT pretty much year round. So you are looking at less than $12/hr to “be your own boss.” And no benefits. When you have to file taxes and your 1040 and Schedule C say that you made poverty wages, are car dealers and rental agents going to just take your word that you “make $20 hour” delivering food? AND despite being paid for the wear and tear on your car in the form of the tax reduction, how many people making $12/hr do you think have a car repair savings and emergency fund? Do businesses with fleets of cars have no plan in place for repairing and replacing those vehicles? Most gig workers surely don’t, and their entire livelihood is based on praying that one car lasts forever. The same guy bragging about making $1000 a week delivering food will be on Gofundme and asking for Venmo “loans” next week when his transmission goes out. Even more sad, when he makes “$20-25/hr” and can’t afford one set of tires or sometimes even an oil change.

The above math on gigs works for those which require cars, true. Other gigs, such as ‘helping’ teenagers with their book reports just require time. And maybe even not that much, depending on the help required.

American immigration policy is complex and needs to be encompass dozens of complicated factors. There needs to be a balance between letting in unskilled workers versus providing a market for unskilled workers already in the US. There needs to be recognition that many industries, notably the agriculture and food processing industries, for which this topic has been raised, have a business model based on cheap immigrant labour and would encounter enormous disruption if they had to rely on non-immigrant labour. On a counterpoint, there needs to be recognition that cheap immigrant labour does hurt the prospects of lower income Americans. The US government needs to recognise the complexity of immigration policy, and how it is tied into the US economy and US labour market, and attempt to create an optimal immigration policy that will meet the needs of employers of immigrants while reducing the downside of those US domestic workers who have their prospects reduced by the influx of competition. Posters which ignore this complexity and belittle conservatives, who a) are the main employers of the agricultural immigrant workers, and b) at the lower economic scales are most likely to be affected by competition for jobs by immigrants, deserve to be mocked. Or at least asked, as I did, to propose ideas which would meet the needs of the Americans most economically affected by immigrant labour. Hopefully some of those willing to just throw out ridiculing soundbites will rise to the challenge.

Great point. It was suggested above that stimulus money be needs based, but if regular unemployment crashed and burned for so many people, how long would it have taken to set up a new system?
The “deserving” unemployed would have gotten their money - on their graves.

All political parties engage in the power grab. They use their constituents to stay in power. And both sides lie. The difference is that those on the Red side of the aisle are willing to break up the union to do it. Cite: see the seditious doings of Jan 6, 2021 and the current attempt to overturn the legal election in Arizona, as well as the attempts in many states to take voting rights away from the wrong people aka POC and those damned liberals.

I had in mind people who had broken through and actually receive unemployment income (+ the relief checks everyone gets). I think a person sitting at $0 income because the unemployment application is stuck in limbo is more likely to take low-end job offers than one already receiving $600/mo from the state. And while I agree continuing to receive unemployment income is much easier than working, I do not think unemployment benefits are more lucrative than working - $600/mo is roughly $3.50/hr for a 40 hour workweek.


There are plenty of nice part-time “gigs” we can come up with. Many of those are even paid quite well. None of those are available to the average Uber driver or food delivery “entrepreneur”. The “gig economy” is about poor people who cannot do math who effectively work for a pittance because they cannot budget for car depreciation and maintenance.

I think it is fair to say that most “gigs” are car-dependent and that all of those drivers are being taken advantage of because they cannot figure out that they are slowly selling/giving away their car.

If you think that is not true: Go to the bank with the business plan “give me money to buy a nice car so I can be an Uber driver” – please make a video of the bank’s reaction.

Ok. I’m not interested in arguing what a ‘gig’ is or whether or not people are really doing better: for purposes of this thread, the discussion is about why people prefer to do this… even with the drawbacks mentioned above… rather than work @ the local bakery for $8/hour, or @ Macy’s for $11.

And young people just working to save up to buy fancy dresses or a car or rent a limo for the prom as opposed to “saving for college” or “starting their lives?”. Should an employer have to pay them more than what their labor is actually worth too?

Or they can rent or lease their car from Uber or Lyft. Then all they have to figure out is whether they’re making more than they’re spending.

Around here you can easily rent a two bedroom apartment for around $1200 a month with free heat. Once you go to college and get a job where your labor is actually worth $15 an hour you get the privilege of living without a roommate.


The concept that labor is inherently “worth” something is unsupported by any economic system people purport to support. As far as I know, anyway.

I thought we were trying to be a market society here.

If so, labor’s worth isn’t determined by the type of job people do or what it entails but by what the market will support. And right now, the problem does not appear to be that employers can’t find workers (the workers are out there after all) but that they can’t find workers at the wages they wish to pay.

Those are two very different things. In general, prices (in this case wages) will have to rise to the level of supply. Value judgments on the type of work are irrelevant and wouldn’t matter anyway if the economists (whether liberal, conservative or whatever) are correct.

This is bringing back memories of the Great Recession and lots of people, including several posters on this board, insisting that millions jobs went away permanently due to “structural unemployment”, i.e. the idea that workers’ skills no longer matched the what was needed in the US and they’d never get jobs of any sort without significant education or re-training. Well, it’s been about 10 years since then, and crickets to that theory. We seem to want those very workers, who were supposedly structurally unemployable, very much now.