GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Empty store shelves, long lines, and a lot of “Help Wanted” signs. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, economic uncertainty has created challenges.

Two years later, restaurants, stores and manufacturers continue to struggle to find enough employees. Economists say from career changes to a huge boom in consumer demand, there simply are not enough unemployed people to fill open positions.

Chair and Professor of Economics at ECU, Dr. Haiyon Liu, said the current unemployment rate is back to what it was before COVID, around 6%. He said it all comes down to huge economic disruptions.

“So there’s still some pent-up demand from the consumers that hasn’t been being met,” said Liu.

He said this is partially because people are pursuing some services more heavily that they missed out on during COVID, such as going out to eat.

“So those are the kinds of the delayed consumption that’s kind of chasing a very limited supply for those goods and services,” said Liu.

Regional Operations Director for NC Works, Larry Donley, said it’s extremely difficult to pinpoint one specific cause.

“When we were receiving the federal financial assistance, there was a lot of, for lack of a better term, blame put on on that for causing that shortage. But there’s been a lot of other reasons cited, that I’ve read or seen through some economists and some research that’s been done,” said Donley.

Donley added some of it could stem from socio-economic challenges.

“Say childcare. Right? For those working parents that have school-aged children, then there’s public transportation, there’s still needs to be more of that and make it more readily available. Unfortunately, there’s still drug, alcohol, opioid abuses,” said Donley.

Liu said this may be the beginning of a new future for the labor market.

“I think if for on the individual level, it gives you that motivation that you decided to, you know, get that training, get that degree, so you can move up and taking advantage of this tightness in the labor market,” said Liu.

As far as solutions, Donley said we need to continue to improve technology to maximize the efficiency of the workforce we do have. Liu said we have a resilient economy and it’s a matter of letting it work its way back to normal.