Jul 6, 2022 - Economy

States get creative to ease labor shortage

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Michigan is now the second state after Maine where 17-year-olds can serve alcohol.

Why it matters: States are taking drastic measures to fill the gaping holes in the labor market, including turning to teenagers, boosting pay and creating incentives to lure employees into the workforce amid a chronic shortage.

Zoom in: The New Jersey bill signed by Gov. Phil Murphy this week allows 16- and 17-year olds to work up to 50 hours a week, or 10 hours a day, during the summer months, while 14- and 15-year-olds can work up to 40 hours a week.

  • Plus, the law simplifies the process to get working papers — provisions that will go into effect next summer, according to NJ.com.
  • "[The law will] help employers find more workers, allow teens more work hours and more pay, and help New Jersey residents and visitors avoid longer summer waits," Michele Siekerk, president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, told NJ.com.

In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) signed a bill earlier this month allowing 17-year-olds to serve alcohol at bars and restaurants to ease shortages in the hospitality industry, MLive reports.

  • "I know our businesses in northern Michigan and other tourist areas will benefit tremendously from the signing of this bill," Michigan Licensed Beverage Association executive director Scott Ellis said.

In Louisville, Kentucky, Norton Healthcare is boosting tuition assistance for students seeking degrees in registered nursing, respiratory therapy or laboratory sciences to alleviate the health care shortage.

Lawmakers are also boosting pay for city workers, including in Washington, D.C., where new police officers are being given a $20,000 hiring bonus, aimed at helping "MPD recruit and hire more officers," Mayor Muriel Bowser said.

To address the lifeguard shortage, New York City Mayor Eric Adams recently lifted a decades-old rule preventing some city employees from also working as lifeguards, The City reports.

  • Now, city employees, including first responders, can also work as a lifeguard during their off-hours.

State of play: The pandemic exposed the cracks in the labor market, leading to a shortage of workers, creating supply chain bottlenecks and surging child care costs, Axios' Emily Peck reports.

The bottom line: The job market may be cooling, with job vacancies falling and hiring steady, but states are trying to help desperate businesses fill open positions — especially as summer travel surges.

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