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Jabs for Jobs? How Biden’s Vaccine Mandate Could Drive Labor Crunch

Did you get your Covid vaccine yet? You might not have a choice if you want to keep your job, and that could be a problem for the U.S. labor force and its supply chain issues.

The U.S., along with other countries, has been trying to curb the coronavirus pandemic and its many variants. But even with the availability of vaccines, some Americans have thumbed their noses at getting the jab. Part of the problem has been the divisiveness over one’s right to choose, compounded by mixed messages from government—Should we wear a mask or not?—and the dissemination of erroneous purported medical information concerning the vaccine. And much of the information circulating is fear-based, ranging from changing one’s DNA to the inclusion of some techno-tracking tool embedded in the liquid.

The point oft forgotten is the fact that the world is still very much in the middle of a global health crisis.

It’s one that has resulted in slowdowns or even shutdowns in factories, with Vietnam the latest country to feel the heat. Besides ports getting shut if someone comes down with Covid, even if goods are sent, they sit at the ports queuing up until the containers can get unloaded. But with dock workers out sick, the wait can stretch out for days. The problem gets worse because even after the merchandise is unloaded, there’s still a need for truckers to get the goods to where it needs to be. That’s presuming you can find the truckers you need because there have been rumblings of a trucker shortage for months now. And without truckers, the goods—running the gamut from apparel and footwear to other everyday needs, such as food—stay where they are.

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With continued delays in shipping on the horizon and no end in sight, even the National Retail Federation, a retail trade group, believes that retailers this year will probably encourage consumers to start their holiday shopping early. The receipt of holiday merchandise normally begins in August, but ongoing supply chain issues could mean delays even if retailers were smart enough earlier in the year to pull deliveries forward. And buying sooner than later not only ensures consumers get the presents they want to give under the tree, it also means some might get to avoid the price increases expected later this year.

In theory, President Joe Biden’s order on Friday mandating sweeping federal requirements for vaccinations for Americans is a move to curb the Delta variant and get the economy humming again as fewer people test positive for the virus. The same day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said data from various studies indicate that unvaccinated Americans are 11 times more likely to die from Covid.

“It’s long past time for all Americans to get vaccinated. Americans have the luxury of access to the vaccines that not all global citizens have. Covid-19 has proven a stubborn foe but vaccines have been proven to be the single most effective way to dramatically slow the spread and prevent serious illness and death,” Steve Lamar, president and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, said.

“The only way to address the economic fallout from COVID-19 is to resolve the underlying health crisis that we have been dealing with for the past year-and-a-half. While the economy is doing better than it was last year, recent supply chain disruptions and factory closures due to the Delta variant have stymied our economic recovery,” he continued. “These steps will go a long way to ensure that we are getting vaccines in arms, and that we can protect our workforce from this disease that has already cost the world so much.”

Lamar said more needs to be done to share America’s excess vaccine supply with other countries because Covid-19 is “not a battle at the country-level, but one where the world is in this together.”

Many still refuse to get vaccinated, not just in the U.S., but globally. And those who do not comply either resign or could be forced out of their jobs.

On Thursday, weekly jobless claims in the U.S. totaled 310,000 for the week ended Sept. 4. The report, which is always one week behind, was better than the 335,000 economists expected. Those who choose to resign do not qualify for unemployment benefits. And that could mean less discretionary income to spend at retail. Even worse, those who choose not to get vaccinated will have a hard time obtaining a new job as employers make inoculation a mandatory hiring requirement.

Consequently, the mandate could end up with some unintended consequences as more jobs potentially go unfilled at a time when the country needs to get Americans back to work.