Wednesday, October 17, 2012
WSJ Wednesday - Not Enough Apple Pickers
After a hiatus that lasted way too long, I hope to bring back WSJ Wednesday on a regular basis. It was a popular column, and even I miss it.
A big topic in this election cycle has been lack of jobs. Unemployment levels are high. It seems businesses are laying off or closing every time you turn around. My experience as a homeowner, however, and a recent article from The Wall Street Journal makes me wonder if that's the entire picture.
In "Many Apples, Few Pickers" by Joel Millman, the topic is the lack of workers to pick bumper apple crops in Washington state. Washington is enjoying the second biggest apple crop in its history, but some farmers are stating that up to one-quarter of their bounty will rot because there aren't enough pickers. Featured in the Wednesday, October 10, 2012 edition of the paper, the article is accompanied by three photographs: one of a farm worker, another of help wanted signs in eastern Washington, and a graph from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on fresh apple production in Washington between 2000 and 2011.
Why in such a tight economy are farmers having a difficult time finding workers? A crackdown on illegal immigration, in addition to a modest economic rebound that has provided immigrants more opportunities in construction, landscaping and restaurants is said to have shrunk the pool of potential workers.
According to the Department of Numbers, the unemployment rate in Washington state in August 2012 was 8.6%, slightly higher than the national average of 8.1%. Farmers are increasing their pay rates in Washington to attract workers, but if what is reported is true, they aren't getting bites. Why? Are the unemployed not interested in such labor? I know I'm more picky about the job opportunities I'm looking for at this stage in my life. While retail is an area I spent over 10 years in, I haven't exactly pursued opportunities in this area during my current job search. My fear is that they wouldn't offer me the flexibility I need as a working mom. Perhaps I'm wrong and should expand my search.
One other thing I'm noticing is that contractors seem to be begging for business, but are still particular about the business they want or lack proper customer service. I received a flyer in our local paper about a special promotion for lawn aeration. I've been putting it off for years, so I figured I would call up this company and see what they could do for me. As expected, they were out of the office when I called, but no one has gotten back to me in the two weeks since. If this is how they treat a potential new customer, what must their current clientele have to deal with for response time? Our church has attempted to hire four different electricians to fix an issue over at the pastor's house since early this year. No one has ever followed up and the repair remains undone.
While this is a simplistic way to look at the tight job market, it remains an important topic in the election. How do illegal immigrants influence unemployment numbers? What should be done about that situation? Do some unemployed people prefer to collect than work certain types of jobs? What can realistically be done about getting people back to work?