GREENVILLE, NC (WNCT) — Friday marked three years since the first COVID-19 case hit North Carolina. Experts say we are still feeling the effects of a labor shortage nationwide due to the pandemic.

“If we had the same level of labor force participation in the country now as we did pre-pandemic, we’d have about two million more people working with jobs in the nation and 50,000 more people working in North Carolina,” said Resource Economist and NC State Professor, Dr. Michael Walden.

The federal government defines the LFPR as the percentage of eligible people either working or looking for work, ages 16 and over. There has been a slight recovery since the pandemic, but still not to the levels prior.

The question is, why?

“Labor force participation has actually been trending downward for several decades,” Walden said. “We’re an aging population, more of our population percentage-wise is 65 and over and those folks tend not to work,” said Walden.

Walden said businesses are adapting after being affected by the labor shortage by relying on technology.

“McDonald’s is thinking ahead and thinking ‘boy if we can’t get workers, we can’t operate, so we need to figure out a different way to produce what customers want’ and they’re testing that through automation,” Walden said. “I think we’re going to see a lot more of that, for some industries this is easier than others.”

He also said he doesn’t foresee a solution coming anytime soon for business owners in North Carolina.

“I do think getting adequate labor is going to be a continuing issue all over North Carolina, Eastern North Carolina, doesn’t matter where you are.”

The Greenville Chamber of Commerce shared with WNCT that the job applicant pool has increased for local businesses since the start of the year, but the numbers vary from business to business.