“The battery on my iPad died last night so I actually had to get out of bed to turn off my lights.”
“I was unable to reserve an aisle seat in business class for a portion of my upcoming business trip to Switzerland.”
“My apartment is getting wired for Google Fiber next week, but I bought a house and will be moving out in 2 months.”
These are #FirstWorldProblems. Yes, they may be annoying and represent a mild inconvenience in our otherwise pampered lives, but there are much worse things happening in the world that highlight the pettiness of our problems.
Republicans’ tax reform plan has introduced a similar concept: Problems that not too long ago the United States would have loved to have. Here are a few examples courtesy of the Washington Post’s Danielle Paquette:
Employers nationwide are grappling with a problem that threatens to stall economic growth: vacancies — and lots of them.
In Maine, where flurries can fall as late as April, the state transportation department is struggling to find snowplow drivers, thanks to the increasingly tight labor market. Ski resorts in the state, meanwhile, are still looking for employees to run the slopes.
Texas, too, is dealing with a labor shortage. As the price of oil climbs, drillers are ramping up production, but they need more truckers to haul it. Energy companies fear a dearth of such workers could eventually force them to limit production.
And Florida lacks the construction workers to keep up with its housing need, plus additional repairs from Hurricane Irma.
The unemployment rate is so low under GOP leadership (it’s remained at a 17-year low for months now) that job seekers are having no problem finding work, but businesses are having trouble keeping up with the need for skilled employees. The most recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the number of job openings in the U.S. surged to a record 6.3 million, the result of 645,000 new job postings in January, a new high.
The good news may not be slowing down anytime soon. Last month’s job report showed that the nation added 313,000 jobs in February, the most since July 2016, and that hundreds of thousands of once-discouraged workers poured into the job market. What’s more, according to a recently-released survey from Duke University optimism among US business executives is at an all-time high, and as a result 40 percent of companies said they plan to increase wages and 38 percent plan to step up on hiring.
“The extremely high level of business optimism is tied to the recently passed corporate tax reform,” said John Graham, director of the survey. “Our analysis of past results shows the CFO Optimism Index is an accurate predictor of future economic growth and hiring, therefore 2018 looks to be a very promising year.”
This isn’t just theoretical. Republicans’ growth agenda has already resulted in countless businesses raising wages, issuing bonuses and making productivity-enhancing investments. Just this week the Dollar Tree announced plans to pass along $100 million for the new tax law to raise wages for hourly workers, give them more work hours and offer paid maternity leave.
Those are the kinds of compound benefits that come from tax reform and deregulation. Businesses are benefitting from lower tax burdens and reduced regulatory compliance costs. But rather than pocket those savings or buy back shares—the benefits of which don’t always filter down to workers—businesses are being forced to expand wages and benefits in order to attract employees in a taut labor market. The result is that Americans are seeing real increases in their paychecks for the first time in recent memory, And as more workers benefit, more long-term unemployed and disengaged workers will continue to rejoin the workforce and more businesses will invest in workforce development initiatives.
Both of these are good things. So yes, it is absolutely a problem that businesses can’t find enough employees to fill their openings. But it sure beats the alternative. And more importantly for our future growth, it incentivizes corporate America to make investments in education, training and wages in order to solve the “first world problem” of low unemployment.