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The Covid recovery labor shortage is intense. Experts say it will force businesses to raise wages.



AUGUSTA, Ga. – As director of the Tucker Summit Community Improvement District, Emory Morsberger’s job is to help position companies in the district for success. Normally, that means working on road improvements, security or landscaping.

These days, he’s helping businesses in that portion of Georgia with a different and urgent challenge: finding talent.

Just like in numerous metro areas and smaller cities around the nation, a labor shortage has arrived in Tucker in impressive force. Morsberger acknowledges it’s likely to get much worse before it gets better as the economy’s improvement continues at a rapid pace, but enhanced unemployment benefits and child care challenges limit the labor pool.

According to a March survey by the National Federation for Independent Business, 42% of business owners reported job openings they couldn’t fill — a record high, and 20 percentage points higher than the 48-year historical average of 22%.

The restaurant sector has been one of the hardest hit industries. The industry was devastated in the early days of Covid-19 and shed jobs at a frantic pace. As vaccination rates have climbed and more diners are heading back out to eat, many restaurants haven’t been able to find workers to keep pace.