Our View: Every effort must be made not to sideline skilled workers

Published by Portland Press Herald | September 4, 2022

Portland Press Herald logoWe haven’t seen anything like it before.

The jobs reports and unemployment numbers of the past 2½ years have repeatedly surprised the American public and confounded even the most imaginative labor economists. The scale of the original contraction rivaled the Great Depression. Its characteristics, however, have been unique.

A crop of tongue-in-cheek terms have sprung up to help us make sense of what’s been going on. “Shecession,” used even by the International Monetary Fund, refers to the flood of women, in particular, who departed the workforce and may not come back. “The Great Resignation” has become shorthand for the tens of millions of Americans who quit their jobs in 2021. Those who haven’t quit but say they’ve taken their foot off the pedal, empowered by a tight labor market to do the minimum in their line of work, are “quiet quitters.”

On Sunday we published the first installment of a deeply reported five-part series on the extent of the workforce crisis here in Maine. We’re calling it “Not Working.”

Thousands of workers have exited the state’s labor force since the start of the pandemic, most of them opting for early retirement. Other openings have been created by a switch by workers in different directions. We’ll hear from the early retirees; the people who’ve decided to quit; those who’ve decided to switch, and the employers who’ve been unable to hire the staff they need.

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