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Worker Shortages Cause Concerns and Competitive Hiring

Since the pandemic hit in 2020, “We’re Hiring” signs and job postings have inundated the American public. Companies that struggle with hiring are currently scrambling to find good workers. An article published by CNN states “The National Association of Business Economics (NABE) found that nearly half — 47% — of respondents to its Business Conditions Survey reported a shortage of skilled workers in the third quarter of 2021. That's up from 32% reporting shortages in the second quarter of the year, which already was too high for comfort. And nobody thinks the labor shortages will just disappear as 2021 turns to 2022.”

An article from the “Insider” looks at case studies across the Construction Industry. The article reports that some companies are paying up to $20 an hour for workers who are untrained/unskilled. Business owners are desperate for laborers and face turning away potential projects from being under-staffed and at capacity with current workloads. On top of desperation and turning away work, business owners are competing with one another for workers in an already small labor pool. The pandemic caused a shift in thinking for many working Americans and inspired people to quit their jobs to pursue better pay, benefits, and other working conditions. This shift in mindset is referred to as the “Great Resignation”. CNBC reported that “The fifty percent of workers who describe their companies as currently understaffed are nearly twice as likely as workers with adequate staffing to say they've considered quitting their jobs in the last three months (43% vs. 23%). Overall, one in three workers (33%) say they've seriously considered quitting in recent months.” Business managers have been forced to comply with changes in the working world by adapting to Work from Home and hybrid working schedules. Many companies are now facing further changes to accommodate their staff, since losing workers will impact the productivity of their businesses.

As companies struggle to find new workers to keep up with workloads, current employees are facing burnout from increased workloads and stress. It has become a chaotic cycle for employers to hire, but also retain, employees. Although hybrid and work from home schedules let employees work from the comfort of their own homes, boundaries between work-life balance can become blurred. Many working people no longer need to commute to the office, or deal with office distractions, making hyper-productivity more common and leading to burnout.

The water and wastewater industry, specifically, has been affected. Workloads have increased, due to the essential nature of the industry, more people working from home and consuming water, government funding for WWTP/WTP upgrades, and severe storms causing a need for disaster relief. Many positions in the water and wastewater industry are notoriously hard to fill, and professionals in this field are working close to retirement age. Additionally, supply chains for essential products and items have been impacted by the worker shortage, making lead times on needed items long and the price of items much higher.

Some states have come up with creative ways to improve labor shortages in the water and wastewater industry. For example, in Michigan, $500,000 was granted by the Federal Government to get the younger generation enticed by the water and wastewater industry. The programs are supported by Grand Rapid Community College, the City of Grand Rapids, and Bay College in Escanaba, Michigan. The goal is to introduce teenagers from areas with high unemployment rates to jobs within the water and wastewater industry. The federal government has dedicated $3.8 million in grants across the U.S. for similar programs, hoping that by investing in the younger generation they can introduce them to an essential industry that needs new workers.

The worker shortage is affecting companies nationwide and in all industries. With the new Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), and the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) funding, workloads have gone up. Through these challenges, Keystone is continuing to grow and is actively hiring. Open opportunities at Keystone can be found on our website and are updated regularly



Clear, Gina. “Water District Experiencing Employee Shortage.” The News Enterprise, 28 Oct. 2021,

Dean, Grace. “Construction Company Owner Says Labor Shortage Means He's Paying up to $20 an Hour to Workers Who Have 'No Idea' How to Do the Job.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 3 Nov. 2021,

Haelterman, Taylor. “Industry Woes: Water Industry Struggles with Both Competitive Hiring and Retiring Workforce.” Great Lakes Now, 11 Aug. 2021,

Rosenbaum, Eric. “A Vicious Job Market Feedback Loop Is Making the Great Resignation Even Worse - for Employers.” CNBC, CNBC, 5 Nov. 2021,

Tappe, Anneken. “Nearly Half of American Companies Say They Are Short on Skilled Workers.” CNN, Cable News Network, 25 Oct. 2021,

Whyte, Dana. “Industry Leaders Work to Address Staff Shortages in Water Industry.”,, 1 Nov. 2021,


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