As Labor Day is celebrated in the Inland Empire this week, a new report is indicating that the economic situation for workers has improved over the past year.
However, some business owners are concerned because they have been unable to find enough laborers to fill vacant positions, according to the Inland Empire Report on Business for August.
Despite some discouraging signs, the Inland Empire manufacturing sector and overall economy “can be expected to continue its steady growth for at least the coming quarter,” said the authors of the survey, Dr. Barbara Sirotnik and Lori Aldana of the Institute of Applied Research at Cal State San Bernardino.
This month’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) registered 57.7 percent, a decease from the previous month’s 60.7.
“But the good news is that the index has remained above the baseline 50 percent mark for 12 consecutive months, indicating that the Inland Empire manufacturing sector and overall economy has continued the trend of steady growth for an entire year (although at a slower pace than last month),” Sirotnik and Aldana said.
The Production Index decreased from 58.6 percent to 53.2, indicating that although production is still growing, the pace has slowed. The New Orders Index is also 53.2, which is an increase from last month’s 51.7.
The Employment Index showed a significant drop from 58.6 last month to 48.4 this month, the report said.
“The labor shortage is causing havoc on the supply chain and production, which is coming across clearly in comments from our panel members,” Sirotnik and Aldana said.
Those comments from the business owners include: “Staffing has been difficult to find and retain” and “Very difficult to add to staff.”
The inability to hire new workers, primarily as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, has persisted for some companies even though they have increased the pay they are offering.
One survey respondent said: “"We increased wages at the end of May to help recruit and retain people. Still having trouble finding new people."
Another manager said: “It's very hard to hire people right now. Amazon opened a warehouse close by and they are paying wages we cannot afford, so we've been busy and working with the employees we have. We have not hired a new employee since January.”
----- AT THE SAME TIME, inflationary pressures continue to be felt in the I.E., the report said.
“The Commodity Price Index is still extremely high at 83.9, but the good news is that the index has decreased since the high of 98.3 in April 2021. The past six months’ figures in the 80-90’s were the highest on record since the inception of this report back in 1993,” Sirotnik and Aldana said.
The authors asked respondents which commodities are getting more expensive.
“One person noted that it’s not the commodity prices that have increased, it’s the transportation that is getting more expensive. Other panelists expressed concerns about the price of electronic components, paper, steel, aluminum, and lumber (wood products). Some complained about the price of ‘everything,’” the authors said.
Supply chain issues are also affecting businesses, the report said.
“The vast majority of respondents (87.1 percent) stated they have had supply chain issues in the past and are still having issues,” the authors said. “Clearly supply chain issues are causing severe delays and frustration among the manufacturing companies who are trying to keep up with production of the products consumers want and need.”