With over half of Americans now being vaccinated, travel is making a major comeback after more than a year of pandemic lockdowns. AAA forecasts that 37 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home over the upcoming holiday from Thursday through Memorial Day, representing a 60% increase over last year.
However, a severe worker shortage coupled with increased travel could mean longer waits and fewer choices for consumers at businesses like restaurants and convenience stores, as indicated by ABC News (May 27). The labor shortage is affecting nearly every aspect of the nation’s tourism industry, which is already trying to rebound from a year of pandemic-related losses.
There were about 406,000 seasonally adjusted initial unemployment claims for the week ending May 22, down 38,000 from the prior week’s revised level, according to the Department of Labor. Still, restaurants, among other segments, are struggling to find workers.
So, what should consumers expect when heading out this summer? Less menu choices at restaurants, lengthy check-in lines at hotels and airports, less rental cars, and fewer food stands at theme parks to name just a few things.
Reasons behind the worker shortage have been highly debated in recent weeks. Some blame extra unemployment aid, while many hospitality workers who lost their jobs at the start of the pandemic have moved on to new careers in other industries.
Several employers are looking into hiring entirely new workers at lower wages instead of recalling laid-off employees, said D. Taylor, president of the hotel, gaming and airport workers union Unite Here, as reported in ABC. He added that casinos are even moving to cut jobs in food and beverage.
On the bright side, the tourism industry is showing signs of coming back. The number of people passing through U.S. airports daily will likely top 2 million before the week is over, the first time that has happened since early March 2020, according to airline executives.