Schulz: Pandemic exacerbates meat industry's labor shortage

October 16, 2020

Dr. Lee SchulzLee Schulz, associate professor, was interviewed for an Oct. 16 Provisioner story, "The state of the workforce 2020: covid-19 catalyzes a reckoning."

“There wasn’t a deep reserve pool to pull workers from to begin with, and COVID-19 exacerbated the problem,” says Lee Schulz, Ph.D and associate professor in Department of Economics at Iowa State University, in Ames. “Meatpacking is also a highly skilled job, so even though there is now a higher unemployment rate — about 10 percent — and about three people looking per job, even if plants attract workers they still can’t start on Day One.”

Increased competition from other markets has led to increases in wages, bonuses and overtime for the meat industry, Schulz says. “In the short run, they are helping prevent turnover from increasing, which is an artifact of a difficult rural labor market,” he says.

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