Some businesses will not be able to pass on higher wages in higher prices. This will squeeze profit margins and might force them out of business. This is the way a market economy works. Workers move from low productivity sectors to high productivity sectors. It is not clear why anyone would think of this as a crisis, although the employers who go out of business are probably not happy.
But as I said up top, it’s not as if this Handelskammer-friendly thesis is limited to stories from Germany. The Times itself has helped perpetuate the idea that even in these rough times, American bosses just can’t find qualified workers because there aren’t enough people with the right skills. Never mind the minor fact that the employers don’t want to pay decent wages:
Here in this suburb of Cleveland, supervisors at Ben Venue Laboratories, a contract drug maker for pharmaceutical companies, have reviewed 3,600 job applications this year and found only 47 people to hire at $13 to $15 an hour, or about $31,000 a year.
The going rate for entry-level manufacturing workers in the area, according to Cleveland State University, is $10 to $12 an hour, but more skilled workers earn $15 to $20 an hour.
I’d like to buy a new Apple laptop for $800. Amazingly, Apple won’t sell it to me. I guess I’ll have to fork over $1,200 or just settle for a Dell.
Of course, according to the press, the labor problem isn’t just with skilled workers. The Denver Post got into the “can’t find workers” act several months ago reporting that, incredibly, a local orchard can’t find Americans to work the farm for eight bucks an hour—$16,000 a year—presumably with no benefits. That segues into beefs about how importing immigrants who will work for such wages is really hard because of red tape. Lazy Americans!
Here’s a piece from the Gaston (North Carolina) Gazette reporting that a sheet-metal manufacturer can’t find workers willing to take $10 an hour—$20,000 a year—since they’re all making more on unemployment benefits.
Minnesota Public Radio reported last summer that a local company couldn’t find coopers willing to work for $10 an hour in the ever-expanding barrel-making industry. In other news, buggy-whip makers are reporting that college graduates are refusing minimum wage and a bright future in buggy-whip manufacturing.
Here’s where I note that the minimum wage in the U.S. in 1968 was an inflation-adjusted $10.10 an hour. Yes, forty-three years ago.
The Wall Street Journal noted last summer that “Some Firms Struggle to Hire Despite High Unemployment” and reported that one firm couldn’t find machinists to take $13 an hour ($26,000 a year). Another shocking anecdote: Emirates airline would have liked more job applicants for flight attendant jobs that pay $15 an hour ($30,000 a year) and require you to move to Dubai.
The idea that these companies might be able to find workers if they paid them—well, that idea might just be just too crazy to broach.
And yep, it’s so crazy that not a single of these stories mentioned it.