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DONNIE JOHNSTON: A labor shortage theory that is out of this world

DONNIE JOHNSTON: A labor shortage theory that is out of this world

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Many businesses are seeking employees these days.

WHERE ARE all the workers? How could so much of America’s labor force just up and disappear?

These are the question on the lips of everyone these days. Just where did all those workers go?

Before the COVID pandemic began, the labor market was zipping along in high gear. The unemployment rate had fallen to under 4 percent and the U.S. economy had become a finely tuned machine.

Then the virus hit and for several months the economy all but shut down. Many workers were laid off, but the idea was that they would get their jobs back when the crisis was over.

Now, with the pandemic winding down (hopefully), the jobs are returning. But the pre-pandemic workforce has disappeared. What happened?

This problem didn’t bother me too much until the other night when I stopped at the Madison Tastee Freez for a Big Country Burger (they are soooo good) and found it had closed early. The reason, according to the sign on the door, was because the fast-food restaurant couldn’t get help.

I knew that almost every business in this country was having a hard time finding employees but the magnitude of the problem didn’t hit me until that night when I was all but starving and I couldn’t get a Big Country Burger (with a large order of onion rings and a chocolate milkshake). Then it became serious.

That did it. Being the investigative reporter that I am, I set out on a quest to find those lost workers and get the Madison Tastee Freez back on its regular schedule. I wanted my Big Country Burger!

I looked everywhere for those lost workers. I checked down at the barn, looked behind the hams in the meat house and pried up the boards on the henhouse floor. I found no missing workers.

I checked under the back stoop, where old Rover makes his bed, but there was not a hamburger slinger or a factory worker anywhere there in the straw.

Maybe everyone was down at the pool hall and they hadn’t heard that the pandemic was nearing its end. But no. When I checked, I found no horde of laid off workers down there playing eight-ball.

I went up in the woods, climbed up on a big rock and yelled, “Are there any missing workers out there amongst the pines and oaks and mountain laurel?” I got nary a single reply.

This was worse than I thought. There wasn’t a worker anywhere. What had happened? This problem would require some really deep thought.

So, as my Indian ancestors would have done, I went out into woods, built a campfire and let the smoke wash over my mind. In the quiet of a dark night, I knew the answer would come to me. And it did.

Space aliens! During the pandemic, a great number of workers must have been snatched from their beds and whisked away to some distant planet, where they are being examined and interrogated. That was it! Space alien abductions.

I know it sounds a little farfetched, but what other explanation could there be? Stores, restaurants and factories are begging for help and offering fat salaries and big bonuses. If those workers were anywhere around, they would take advantage of these offers.

And the labor shortage couldn’t be because the government is rewarding those who do not work. The COVID stimulus checks have stopped coming and the federal unemployment program ended more than a month ago. If the workers were out there, they would now need jobs to support their families.

But no one is responding to the high wage offers and the bonuses, so the workers must have disappeared from the face of the Earth. And unless they ascended to the great AFL–CIO in the sky, space aliens must have taken them.

What would space aliens want with American workers? Who knows? Perhaps some college student on Mars is doing his thesis on two-hour coffee breaks or the minimum wage and felt that an abduction was the only way to get firsthand information.

Or maybe the government on another planet wanted to study the effects of COVID on earthlings.

If that’s the case, there is hope. All American businesses have to do is set up a job fair on the far side of Devil’s Tower and one dark night all the missing workers will be returned intact and ready for employment.

Maybe then I can get my late night Big Country Burger once again.

Donnie Johnston:

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