A recent poll reveals that three in ten small businesses are leveraging technology to deal with worker shortages.
Enhanced unemployment benefits — passed as a response to COVID-19 and the lockdown-induced recession, and extended by President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan — delayed many workers’ return to the job market.
A Morning Consult survey determined that rather than returning to work, at least 1.8 million Americans have rejected job offers to continue collecting the $300-per-week handouts — despite a record number of job openings in the United States.
In the month preceding the benefits’ nationwide expiration on September 6, however, another Morning Consult poll indicates that small businesses have attempted to replace workers through automation. The Small Business Recovery Survey — which surveyed 608 small to midsize businesses between August 5 and August 16 — found that roughly three in ten have turned to automation:
In the past year, 1 in 5 decision makers have hired employees who do not live locally for roles in which they can work remotely (20%), and 30% have implemented new systems or technology to compensate for a shortage of workers.
Beyond the worker shortage, 92% of managers surveyed by Morning Consult were “very concerned” about the effects of COVID-19 and the lockdown-induced recession on small businesses in the United States. Meanwhile, 72% said that the recession had a negative impact on their own businesses’ financial security.
Larger corporations have likewise used automation amid the worker shortage. For instance, as The Wall Street Journal described in July, restaurant chains with national footprints are implementing new technological solutions:
At restaurant and entertainment chain Dave & Buster’s Entertainment Inc., customers now use digital tablets to order food and drink, allowing managers to schedule fewer servers, the company’s chief operating officer, Margo Manning, said on a call with investors in June. Applebee’s is now using tablets to allow customers to pay at their tables without summoning a waiter. The hand-held screens provide a hedge against labor inflation, according to John Peyton, CEO of Applebee’s parent Dine Brands Global Inc.
As The Daily Wire previously reported, Amazon began experimenting with a store featuring “cashierless checkout technology” in Washington state. As customers who visit the Amazon Fresh store “Just Walk Out” with their items, the building tracks the purchases and automatically charges the user’s Amazon account. McDonald’s began piloting voice-automated drive-thrus — a technology that executives predict will be found in franchises throughout the United States within the next five years.
The extent to which the recent removal of federal unemployment insurance will affect the job market is still unclear.