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Is there a labor shortage? Experts say it depends on the line of work

Businesses continue to have problems with staffing. Experts say there is generally a shortage, but many workers are simply finding jobs in different industries.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Labor shortages have been reported across East Tennessee. But are employers actually struggling to find workers? The short answer is that it depends on the line of work. 

Some fields may lack the thousands of workers they had before the pandemic, but that doesn't mean those people are not working. Instead, experts say those people are just working somewhere else.

Dennis Rowe the Director of Government and Industry Relations at Priority Ambulance knows the workers he needs just aren't there.

"When COVID happened, it really significantly reduced the number of folks that were looking, coming into this particular profession," Rowe said.

But after more than a year of uncertainty and tons of stress, people are making different decisions.

"People are making different choices now in a number of dimensions than they did 18 months ago. And that includes their choices of employment," said Matt Harris, an economist at the University of Tennessee.

He says that fields like construction, goverenment, food service and health care are struggling to bring those employees in. Health issues like burnout which are prevalent in those industries could be a reason why so many jobs are still open.

He said that the demand for jobs is up generally, across different industries. And when the demand for jobs is up, people have more job options.

His solution for industries looking for workers is simple: offer more money.

"The easiest immediate thing is to offer higher wages. But if you change the price, right, as you pay people more — more people will come work for you," he said.

Harris also said that Governor Bill Lee's decision to take away federal unemployment benefits early had little impact on businesses' ability to find workers.

Priority Ambulance is paying for future workers to learn about how to respond to calls, and they are also paying for the time people spend on that education if they want to work with the company.

"We've also provide educational opportunities, and we will actually pay for your time, as well as for your education to come to work for us," Rowe said.

The company said that they are doing their best to avoid the worst, so they can continue to provide the service people need.

'We don't wait till the bad things happen to us, to start making sure that we have Plan One, Plan Two, and Plan Three to deal with the situation," said Rowe. 

If you are interested in a career in EMS or becoming an EMT you can go to their website and apply here.

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