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Dearth of Skilled Labor Leaves Firms Understaffed

WHERE have all the workers gone? More than two out of five North American companies report that they are afflicted by understaffing; more than one-half predict that they will be understaffed sometime this year.

But there is some consolation. A survey of 510 American and Canadian businesses by the Olsten Corporation in Westbury, N.Y., finds that a surge of hiring over the past year has provided relief to beleaguered corporate staffs.

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Shortages of skilled employees are at the root of understaffing, according to the survey. Almost one-half (49 percent) of respondents cite shortages of employees with needed skills. That factor surpasses budget constraints (39 percent), which was the leading staffing challenge last year.

Staff expansions were most pronounced among small businesses. Close to one-half (45 percent) of the smallest companies report adding to their work forces, compared with 20 percent of the largest corporations (with more than 1,000 employees). Traveling on a budget

IF you're heading to New York or Washington on business, beware! These two cities are the most expensive in the country for meals and lodging, according to Runzheimer International in Rochester, Wis.

New York tops the list at $330 a day; Washington comes in a distant second at $247 a day. Honolulu is the third most expensive city at $231 daily per person. Chicago and Boston take fourth and fifth places at $229 and $216 respectively.

Travel to Wheeling, W. Va., or Augusta, Ga., however, and you will pay only $76 a day. Other inexpensive cities include Johnson, Tenn., ($80); Fayetteville, N.C. ($81); and Beaumont, Texas ($81). Ahh, meat

EVERY year, Americans eat more and more meat. At the present rate of consumption, they will put away a record-breaking 206 pounds of beef, pork, chicken, and turkey per person this year, according to economists at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Chicken is leading the increase.

With plentiful supplies of meat on hand, consumers can expect continued low prices at the meat counter, says Scott Brown, livestock analyst at the university's Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute.

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