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Fewer workers, supply chain issues affect you and me

One of the most highly prized achievements in the United States is to become the owner of a business - an entrepreneur allowing us to call our own shots and not have to rely on working for someone else.

Of course, this notion is fantasy to begin with, because as any entrepreneur worth his or her salt will tell you, the “someone else” is now the customer, who must be pleased with your product and becomes impatient when not being able to get it.

I was thinking about this when I was having my daily bagel and coffee at my favorite haunt, and I saw a sign at the counter saying that the place would be closed on Saturday, the busiest (and most profitable) day of the week for this type of shop.

I asked what was going on and was told by the frustrated mother of the owner that they had no alternative because they do not have enough employees and have tried everything from higher wages to sign-on bonuses without success.

Speaking to several shop owner friends who live in Summit Hill and Jim Thorpe, I hear the same litany - “nobody seems to want to work anymore.” Of course, this is an oversimplification of a much more complex problem.

I have been trying to find out why it is so difficult to get workers these days, even now that the enhanced unemployment benefits have run their course. Even the national unemployment claims rose last week for the second week in a row, despite the massive number of job openings across the country.

Coming from an era where a person’s work ethic was considered ultra important, I wonder what happened to that mentality, or is it still there, but, somehow, it has morphed into a different form with a different definition.

At my age, I can remember ebbs and flows locally where the unemployed clamored for any job possible. Today, unlike most periods of our history, the employee is in the driver’s seat, while the employer is going along for the ride.

As if getting enough employees weren’t a major challenge by itself, these small-business owners are faced with the issue of getting ingredients for their products or enough goods to sell.

We consumers are being told that if we didn’t already place an order for some products for the coming holiday season, it might already be too late to get them. IOUs, anyone?

The current supply chain volatility has an impact on virtually every facet of our lives.

My bagel shop entrepreneur friend lamented that his order of flour did not arrive on schedule - the first time this had ever happened. The supplier told him that first of all the delivery was delayed, but the supplier also has a shortage of drivers to move the goods.

“It’s just one thing after the other,” said the mother of the bagel-shop owner. “My son is so frustrated that he wants to just pack it in some days,” she said.

A friend who lives in Palmerton was so excited about finally deciding to do some serious renovations of the family’s kitchen. This giddiness has turned to frustration and anger as the delivery of parts and appliances has delayed the completion of the project by more than three months and counting.

Some of these parts and products are coming from abroad. We learned last week that more than 70 container ships at ports in California are stacked up there unable to unload goods because of a shortage of workers.

The average dock worker in Los Angeles is paid $21.52 an hour plus about $6,000 a year in overtime pay for an average annual compensation of about $50,000.

I needed some home repairs and tried to contact a business in the Slatington/Walnutport area. I called three times and left messages and sent two emails with my name and contact information. Nothing. Not even the courtesy of a reply. Friends tell me of similar experiences they have had throughout the region trying to get repairs or, for that matter, any services.

The labor shortages mean that economic growth will be limited in some areas of the country, to say nothing of the inconvenience to us consumers.

Patience is not a consumer’s virtue in this country. The other day I saw a big sign inside a Dunkin’ shop in East Stroudsburg saying, “Be patient - staff shortage.” On the shop’s door was another sign saying that it is curtailing its hours of operation because of a shortage of employees.

Despite the inability of many employers to get workers and the fact that 362,000 filed first-time unemployment claims last week, the United States now has more job openings than at any time in history - more than 10 million.

These numbers just don’t seem to compute.

By Bruce Frassinelli | tneditor@tnonline.com

The foregoing opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board or Times News LLC.