Not-So-Smooth Sailing From Here: What Has Caused The Shipping Shortage?

For the past several months, the production and shipping of products has slowed down massively. A shortage of product parts being shipped to the manufactures and severe lack of truck drivers has put the shipping industry as a whole under stress. And with the holiday season here, celebrated with the mass buying of products to give to others, it’s only making the crisis worse.

On October 13th of this year, President Biden held a conference talking about the shipping shortages, where he said that “All of these goods won’t move by themselves. For the positive impact to be felt all across the country and by all of you at home, we need major retailers who order the goods and the freight movers who take the goods from the ships to factories and stores to step up as well.” But in order for us to understand why this shipping crisis is occurring, we need to talk about the recent economy and job crisis caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Near the start of the pandemic, unemployment skyrocketed. According to the bureau of labor, New Jersey unemployment went from 172,081 to 742,322 from March of 2020 to April of 2020. And according to the latest report, 308,735 people are still unemployed from New Jersey alone. Pertained to the United States alone, that’s millions of less jobs being filled. And if we were to apply that further to around the world, both to nations in situations like us and those in a worse state due to the COVID pandemic, it adds up quickly.

Immune-compromised people, children and elders or the people who come into contact with the previously mentioned people, would be at greater risk of either becoming ill, or spreading it to someone. It would be dangerous for these people to return without the majority of the population vaccinated, they can’t go out in public. And unless their job can be completed at home, they’re forced into unemployment.

That’s not the only reason for unemployment. During the pandemic, a number of stimulus checks have been passed through the government, giving people more money on top of their unemployment. For people who work in minimum wage jobs, they may earn more money from the stimulus check than continuing to work for their previous job. There’s no economic incentive to keep working.

The shipping industry wasn’t an exception to the above. Mainly postal works faced unemployment during the pandemic, with the industry as a whole losing many workers. At the time the pandemic started, that wasn’t as big of a problem as it was now. Since everything was shut down during the pandemic, shipment of products decreased because less companies were in business. And for that period of time, the lack of shipping wasn’t a problem due to the lack of product needing shipping. However, in our attempts to reach a post-COVID world, a conflict of interest arises. Companies want to return to creating products, which requires shipping both the ingredients for the product and the product themselves. However, shipping workers are making more money without employment due to the stimulus checks, so there’s a lack of shipping workers. This has resulted in a large demand for shipping, but a low supply of actual shippers, which has led to the current shipping industry being clogged. And without shipment to be able to move the products at a consistent rate, packages are taking longer to arrive. This is made even worse with the holiday season, where most people are ordering gifts that need to be shipped to their houses. There aren’t enough shipping workers to get everyone’s packages to them.

The good news is that this is a problem that can be solved. Currently, the lack of workers is due to the fact that minimum-wage workers are making more money currently in unemployment due to the unique situation of the pandemic. First, the majority of the population has to have the vaccine so immune-compromised workers can return to those jobs. Secondly, there needs to be an economic incentive to get people back to work, which could occur in one of several ways. But no matter how that’s decided, we know how to deal with the problem, and it’ll only be a problem for a short period of time.