The Nahployment 'Crisis'

While the customer is often right he (or she) isn’t always right.

If a customer is so awful it’s leading to your employees walking off a job then the customer is wrong (or something is wrong, and you shouldn’t kneejerk assume it’s the employees).

I’ve had customers literally shriek at me to do things that not only could get me fired, but could also get me find a thousand dollars and serve time in jail. F that noise - they’re wrong customer or not. At least my employer backs us up on the legal issues.

My single favorite thing I learned in business school is that the Pareto principle applies to customer service, just like everything else.

In other words, 80% of your customer service headaches will come from 20% of your customers. And in fact, the studies show that you’re better off if you can drive them away and make them go bedevil your competition.

That tickled me to no end; not only is the customer not always right, but some of them should be pushed to your competition to drive them batty.

That asshole who stood around and yelled at the college kids is someone better off with some other lawn service, I guarantee.

A few years back Amazon got rid of their AI applicant screening software because it showed a bias against women. There are concerns that AI screening software has a disparate impact on other protected classes including African Americans. We still screen the old fashioned away but I admit that we don’t always look at every application submitted to us.

And having a gap in your resume might be a problem when unemployment is high and you have a lot of applicants to choose from. But when unemployment is low or you’re otherwise having a hard time finding qualified applicants then a gap isn’t so bad.

And some of those who didn’t die have long covid too badly to be able to come back to work; especially at jobs that take a lot of physical exertion, as most restaurant jobs among others do.

Fewer employees will lead to longer waits. Longer waits lead to angrier customers. Angrier customers lead to more abuse on the staff actually working. More abuse leads to more staff saying “screw this!”

Paying these few employees more money is good. Treating the people in customer service with the respect they deserve is even better. Because most of us are not in a position to dictate another’s pay, perhaps we can work on the thing most of us can control. That is the treating the people we deal with in a decent fashion.

Most retail and service situations are trivial and no one (employee or customer) should be getting angry over them regardless of what goes wrong. Irked I can understand. Life is irksome. Save anger for when it is truly needed.

Not a small number of people decided to start their own businesses in recent months, and inability to find employees is a problem for a lot of them. One reason may well be that a lot of people are going to be hesitant in these times to take a job where they can’t guarantee that it will exist at all in a few months.

That’s the case with a woman who wants to open a cafe’ at the library I volunteer at.

You’d be surprised what a lot of them do on their summer vacations.

Plus, men in female-dominated professions, including elementary education, are often accused of going into it for the wrong reasons, and hear things like “But what about the single mother whose job you’re going to be taking?”

I’ve come to find over the years of hiring landscapers and general construction workers that there are many people out there qualified to do this sort of work and very few of them are qualified to run a business.

This guy has been in business for 30 years and lives in (and operates his business out of) a $3M house in one of the areas toniest towns. At least on the marketing and billing side he is thoroughly professional.

He’s just had a regular supply of cheap immigrant labor for all that time until the last year when it has dried up.

Ugh well now my hopes are further dashed, I can’t trust ANYONE to reliably do landscaping.

This article from the WaPo has some interesting info:

At heart, there is a massive reallocation underway in the economy that’s triggering a “Great Reassessment” of work in America from both the employer and employee perspectives. Workers are shifting where they want to work — and how.

Resignations are the highest on record — up 13 percent over pre-pandemic levels. There are 4.9 million more people who aren’t working or looking for work than there were before the pandemic. There’s a surge in retirements with 3.6 million people retiring during the pandemic, or more than 2 million more than expected. And there’s been a boost in entrepreneurship that has caused the biggest jump in years in new business applications.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if many of the folks who aren’t looking for work are women who can’t find child care or are needed at home for other reasons, and some of them may not go back to work for a long time, if it all.

It doesn’t help that the abundance of job openings right now are not in the same occupations — or same locations — where people worked pre-pandemic.

In comparison, during the Great Recession, there were excess workers in all fields across the board and not enough jobs for them. This time things are different. The article has a chart showing the mismatches in available jobs by field vs. unemployed folks whose last job was in that field.

In recent months, heath care workers and educators have quit their jobs at the highest rate on record, stretching back to 2002, Labor Department data show.

These type jobs require training and licensing, which means there may be shortages in these kinds of areas for a long time.

I’m not an expert, but I bet they all use machine learning, and you can’t tweak that very easily. I bet they don’t have new training data. One of the big problems with this kind of software is that it is hard to know what is going on inside, and very hard to see what the results would be by changing weighting on unemployment length. They’d probably get worse feedback from customers swamped with clearly unacceptable resumes rather than getting fewer resumes.

This doesn’t surprise me at all. Someone in their early 60s who was planning to work for three or four more years gets laid off. At that age forget getting a decent job again, since your employer won’t expect you to last long enough. With the extra money from the government, it is really easy to say screw even trying. Thanks for the numbers, I was wondering about them.

We had retirements where I work because those folks just didn’t want to deal with the extra effort and stress the pandemic caused. They would have stayed a few years longer, but were eligible for retirement and didn’t need the hassle.

Same in my workplace. Same pretty much everywhere.

There is also, not to be grisly and grim about it, but there is also the non-negligible generational wealth transfer effect from disproportionately many excess deaths among the elderly (including the relatively wealthy Boomer generation) due to COVID.

A major generational wealth transfer was coming anyway over the next couple decades, but for many people the ravages of COVID among the elderly may have accelerated it. So that’s another factor in the ability of many people to get by with less and/or different employment than they had been expecting.

Just saw this being broadcast on my PBS station:

I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet. I set my DVR to record them. One segment looks to be relevant to this:

The JOLTS report showed that there are jobs out there.

But, of course, it won’t answer the question of why there are so many open jobs. We’ve gone over many of them in this lengthy thread. It still seems like there’s just a massive mismatch between employers and potential employees and it won’t be resolved quickly. It’s definitely not going to be by pushing the easy button and blaming enhanced unemployment insurance as things haven’t changed drastically in the red states which ended it early.

At least we don’t have a ruling class that will try to impose wage caps now.


It appears that there’s a divergence between the worker survey - which shows that ending benefits almost doubled the rate of employment growth, and the business survey, which doesn’t.

I’d say the jury is out. And anyway, we’re going to get a ton of data in a month or two.

The nonfarm quits rate held steady in July, still at 2.7%. It usually rises in good times but had never been above 2.4% until late last year.