BNP Pulse report finds labor a top concern

"Gray tsunami" part of the reason employers can't find new workers
Photo credit Getty Images

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) The Buffalo Niagara Partnership released its 2021 Pulse report. At the top of concerns this year, the workforce, as employers ranked a lack of qualified workers as their top inhibitor of growth.

BNP President Dottie Gallagher says last year the top concern was the economic impact from COVID. "This year, what screamed through loud and clear was the challenges of workforce, workforce, workforce," says Gallagher. "Number one ranking is difficulty finding and retaining qualified talent. 83 percent of our member companies currently have open positions, and 77 percent plan on adding more employees this year, so it's challenging to get qualified workers." Gallagher adds 70 percent say a lack of qualified workers has inhibited their ability to grow in the region. She says 45 percent plan on raising salaries to address labor shortages. The report says 71 percent are willing to allow workers to continue working remotely in an effort to retain talent.

Gallagher says prior to the pandemic, businesses were aware of a "gray tsunami," with baby boomers preparing to retire. "The pandemic acclerated many of those retirements," says Gallagher. She adds others are now going into business for themselves instead of working for someone else. There is also another reason, based on COVID. "We see a lot of two parent families decide to try to have just one parent working and downsizing their homes. A lot of women have left the workforce, and I think that's primarily because of the uncertainties around school with the lingering impacts of COVID," explains Gallagher.

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Gallagher says there's one takeaway not in the report. "I have had conversations with employers who are now looking at investing in technology that will help reduce the need for people. Innovative technology which before didn't make financial sense but now with the shortage of available workers, that is becoming an option," says Gallagher.

Gallagher says 57 percent of members were negatively affected by the US-Canadian land border closure. She says that's a bit surprising considering essential trade was permitted all along. "To see this very high number speaks the importance of how integrated our economy is," says Gallagher. She says there's a great sense of optimism in the retail and tourism sectors that Canadians will soon be able to come down with proof of vaccination and without testing will have an immediate positive impact on the economy.

The information included in the Member Pulse Report influences the BNP’s government affairs and economic development work. Member input is also used to help develop the BNP’s annual Advocacy Agenda – encompassing the organization’s federal, state, and local policy priorities - which will be released in early January 2022.