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28 Sep, Wednesday
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Bull Trader USA

: ‘It’s hard to imagine a sector of the economy not affected’: Employers worry about retaining workers as omicron spreads

Most executives are confident they have the workplace policies in place to handle the onslaught of omicron, a new survey says — but what really worries them is what the COVID-19 variant will do for quit and hire rates.

Staff retention, hiring and productivity are serious worries as COVID-19 cases in the U.S. skyrocket, according to findings released Wednesday by the Society for Human Resource Management, a professional association.

While nearly nine in 10 executives are confident their organizations can withstand the variant and have the procedures and capacity to address it, two-thirds are concerned about how their staff is going to react.

The survey, conducted in early December, showed 65% were very or extremely worried about their organization’s capacity to retain workers because of the omicron variant.

The same percentage of respondents was very or extremely worried about the organization’s ability to hire new staff amid the variant.

Meanwhile, 62% said they were very or extremely concerned about maintaining productivity and 61% were worried what the variant would do for morale. In the first full week of January, frazzled parents have juggled work obligations with upended school schedules as many school systems temporarily return to closures, half days or virtual instruction because of omicron.

To be sure, 67% of survey participants say they are concerned about keeping staff and customers safe in the current moment — but their consistent worries about the state of their labor force speak volumes.

The survey didn’t get into why omicron might push a worker out the door, but other observers have thoughts on the interplay. The speed and timing of the omicron surge is putting all sorts of pressure on workers in their professional and personal lives, said Diane Swonk, Grant Thornton’s chief economist.

“It is hard to imagine a sector of the economy not affected, although it will clearly hit sectors where in-person work is essential harder,” she said on Twitter. “The gap between those who can work remotely and those who can’t will widen.”

SHRM conducted the online survey of 110 U.S. executives from Dec. 1 to Dec. 9, as many workers left jobs for better prospects. The drumbeat on that labor-market trend has been pounding for some time now, but new data this week made an especially loud point.

A record 4.5 million people quit jobs in November, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Tuesday. By the end of the month, there were 10.6 million job openings.

Meanwhile, new private payroll data from ADP on Wednesday showed a lot of people landing new jobs in December. Even in the month when omicron sped into public focus, private payrolls rose by 807,000. That easily beat forecasts and marked the biggest increase since May.

The ADP National Employment Report can be used as a preliminary gauge for the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report. But the ADP numbers do not always translate into an accurate predictor of the jobs report.

The December jobs report is scheduled for release Friday morning.

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