Local economic experts say other reasons are cause of struggles to fill open positions

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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT)- We have all surely been affected by some sort of economic changes throughout the course of the pandemic. Local economists explain that the cause of staffing shortages is not only doing better, but caused by factors other than a lack of will to return to work.

ECU Economist, Dr. Philip Rothman, explains that our current unemployment rates are actually not significantly low compared to the norm.

“We were down to 3.5-percent which is very, very low, and then we went up, like in a month or two, to nearly 15-percent,” he explained, “and now we are down to 5.2-percent.”

Rothman says 3.6-percent is considered full-employment, so to be at 5.2-percent is not that far off, all things considered.

Rothman also discussed why staffing shortages being caused by unemployment supplements is a misconception.

“We have some data on that, that several states had leeway to decrease the unemployment benefits payments earlier, and there’s no strong evidence that there was a more robust response in the labor market,” said Rothman.

Executive Director of the Onslow County Economic Development Committee, Mark Sutherland, explains that there is more at play. He said the pandemic changed the economy and job market in many unexpected ways, saying, “Labor and capitol is changing around the world, and it’s, it’s no exception here. If we’re going to be competitive and productive and manufacturing, we are certainly going to have to pay better wages.”

Sutherland added that Onslow County’s economy has held up considerably well through the crisis.

“You wouldn’t know just by looking at those metrics that we had a pandemic here, but it may start to show up in a year or two with the labor and the supply chain issues continue to be pervasive as they are now for sure,” said Sutherland.

Sutherland said the reason Onslow County has done so well is not only because the military population here did not lose work, but also because much of the area’s industry was considered essential throughout the course of shutdowns.

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