By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Too many jobs for too few candidates

America’s nationwide workforce crisis has triggered a mass waiting game.

Businesses and institutions are challenged by the inability to find qualified employees to fill key positions. As a result, people are waiting in lines, on the phone and on e-mail for services that once were more readily available.

Getting common transaction information today is akin to calling the IRS in years past. And who knows how long the IRS line is today?

This from the U.S. Bureau of Labor: “On the last business day of March 2022, there were 11.5 million job openings and 6.0 million unemployed people … a ratio of unemployed people to job openings of 0.5 for March.”

Putting that into perspective: The historic average is 2.7 unemployed people for each job opening.

That number peaked at 6.4 in July 2009, dropped to 1.4 in February 2016, and ranged from 0.8 to 1.0 through 2018 and the ensuing pandemic years. The March 0.5 ratio is the lowest ever recorded.

Causes of this worker shortage are many and diverse.

One factor, says the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is our world’s-highest incarceration rate, mostly men of prime working age.

“Nearly 2 million Americans are incarcerated in the U.S. correctional system, with an additional 4.5 million on probation or on parole at any time,” the Chamber reports. And another 77 million Americans with criminal records often are excluded from employment opportunities.

CNBC finance reporter Greg Iacurci cites these reasons for people not returning to the workforce:

COVID and fear of contracting COVID, early retirement secured by Social Security and personal nest eggs, care responsibilities for children or elderly relatives, people with amassed savings choosing to take time off, and wages not meeting worker needs, often due to health risks and child care needs.

About that mass waiting game:

In just the past week, I have waited 105 minutes on hold for a hospitality industry agent and 45 minutes for airline information; found reserved lodging unavailable “because housekeeping went home”; waited almost 20 minutes on hold for a medical clinic before being forced into voicemail and triggering the dreaded game of call-back phone tag.

Answering systems plead with callers to get information online and avoid phone system gridlock — good advice when compared to telephone wait times. Simply stated, operations lack sufficient staff and can’t find replacements from a much-reduced workforce.

One side note: Whenever I got through, I invariably had great service from people. However, these days, getting there is far more than half the journey.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.