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What's causing Kentucky's labor shortage? One official says a 'perfect storm' is contributing to it.

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Posted at 5:45 PM, Jun 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-17 18:36:41-04

(LEX 18) — "Now Hiring" and "Help Wanted" signs can be found in just about every restaurant and store window.

Kentucky's labor shortage was the topic of discussion at Thursday's Interim Joint Tourism, Small Business, and Information Technology Committee hearing.

"There is an all-time high of job openings," Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President Ashli Watts told lawmakers.

"We have half as many available workers as there are open jobs," said Watts. "So, there are about two open jobs for every one worker now, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics."

What's causing the shortage?

Across the country, some people have been pointing to the extra $300 people are receiving in unemployment benefits as an incentive to keep people at home. Others disagree that money is the problem.

Watts told lawmakers there are many factors that are contributing to Kentucky's labor shortage, which she described as a complex problem. For example, she told lawmakers many employees retired when the pandemic hit. Many others are struggling to secure good quality childcare, which is preventing both parents from returning to the workforce.

"It's not just one reason why this is happening. It's not just the $300. It's not just childcare. It's not retirements. It's all of it put together into this kind of perfect storm," said Watts.

Other factors Kentucky should work on are better training and education for workers, according to Watts.