In some way, we've all felt the effects of the job situation that evolved during the pandemic.
We saw, and still see, signs that advertise jobs.
Various reasons have been given.
Some jobs went away.
Others were curtailed.
Some employers believe stimulus checks and other benefits led those with lower-wage jobs to stop working.
Others, experts say, reconsidered their job decision and vowed to improve on it. They went back to school, took on training or simply reached higher. Some started their own businesses.
Those who had to pay for child care, which also has been affected the past 22 months found it was more economical for one adult in the household to work and the other stay home with children.
The result is businesses that are understaffed. This means, in some cases, that hours are cut or they close an entire day.
It means that lobbies remain closed or drive-up stall service is temporarily suspended, with window service only offered.
The hardest hit areas are food service, entertainment and retail. That would not be surprising.
Change in business has resulted.
Higher wages and increased benefits, including flexible work hours, have been offered.
Some employees who were sent home to work due to the pandemic remain away from the office. They may stay there.
Do we need to office? Opinion is divided, some saying communication and community have suffered while others argue that many jobs today don't require a group setting.
If you work at home, is your home set for work?
Do you have trouble defining "work" and "home," since it's the same place?
Do you work better surrounded by others, with closer supervision? Does working at home keep you out of the loop and prone to distractions?
Employers have been analyzing the effects in the change of how we've managed business since March 2020.
Brick-and-mortar operations are costly. If those are maintained or built, will they look the same compared to existing structures? In Abilene, motorists are familiar with lines of cars at drive-throughs that spill into streets, clogging traffic and sometimes creating traffic safety issues.
Three of the best known sites are the Chick-fil-A on Southwest Drive, Dunkin' on South 14th and the McDonald's on North First. Will more space to be devoted to this? Chick-fil-A and McDonald's in recent years added a second drive-through lane.
Some businesses now send an employee outside to record orders in hopes of keeping lines moving along.
The curbside grocery idea born before COVID-19 has exploded. More staff and parking has been devoted to this effort. Now, grocery store aisles are more cramped due to order carts, motorized shopping carts and specialized displays. This is not helpful when trying to keep shoppers separated.
According to the latest numbers, more people are working in our three-county metro area than before the pandemic, recovering nicely from March 2020. That's the month Abilene went strangely quiet as we dealt with the first wave of COVID-19 cases.
Our unemployment rate is 3.7%. That's not the 2.5% rate of April 2019 but it's low enough to show that most people who want to work are working.
In April 2020, that rate was 8.7%.
So, we see both good news and bad news. People are working, yet we have jobs to fill.
The brighter news is that the feeling is that we have bottomed out of the pandemic. We looked at 2021 with the hope that it would be better than 2020.
We look at 2022 with the hope, not that we are back to normal in some cases, but moving forward again.
Ahead are ample job opportunities that could provide a lift in salary and benefits for those in and surrounding Abilene.
But as we add more enticing employment, will lower-paying jobs still suffer? And what other changes in our daily lives will we see?
The new year will be pivotal as to how things shake out after a crippling pandemic.
Do you have the time to be the 17th vehicle in line for artisanal coffee? And the money to pay for it?
Or will waiting be the only option, this year and ahead?
This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: The future of how we do business in Abilene is in pandemic flux
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