FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Economists from Purdue Fort Wayne say the labor shortages Fort Wayne employers are currently seeing in the labor market will likely last until the end of 2022.

“There’s nothing on the horizon that tells us that it’s going to end anytime soon,” said Rachel Blakeman, the director of PFW’s Community Research Institute. “The past, almost two years, has been a great unknown. We continue to live in unprecedented times.”

Blakeman said the unknown is centered around the coronavirus pandemic and the economic effects that come with it. However, her and her colleague’s economic forecast was written before the severity of the Omicron variant was known.

Barring any unforeseen shocks to the overall economy, unemployment is expected to range between 4.8% to approximately 4% from September 2021 to December 2022. The model projected a decline from September to November to close out 2021 and start 2022 around 4.4%

The study used 2020 employment, wages and population data to identify what’s ahead for 2022. Since it concluded Fort Wayne’s tight labor market will continue into next year, Blakeman said employers are going to have to offer more favorable wage and benefits packages to attract needed workers.

“Well, I think really what employers need to be thinking about is what makes their positions attractive to the people that they are looking to hire,” said Blakeman. “We’re seeing from employers that promising overtime isn’t working out like it once did. So is it providing schedule flexibility? Is it you’re putting the hours earlier in the week so you get Friday’s off? We have to remember what motivates workers to go to their job and to keep their job.”

The employment in the 11-county Northeast Indiana region declined 5.9% between 2019 and 2020, reflecting a loss of 19,529 jobs. Statewide, employment declined 5.6% and it went down 6.7% nationally.

Economic Forecast 2022

Since staying at home and collecting added benefits isn’t a viable for most people anymore, Blakeman said using the excuse “everyone just wants to sit at home and not work” likely isn’t true. However, some contributing factors could be people retiring early, inflationary pressures and supply chain issues.

“You have challenges of supply chain that are separate from workers,” said Blakeman. “So even if can you get people to build trucks at GM maybe, but you may not have the chips to put in them, so the trucks don’t get off. Can’t get into the end of the supply chain for you and me to buy a new truck this weekend.”

Blakeman believes the population getting vaccinated is the best place to start for getting the economy back on track.

“What it comes down to is our ability to get the virus under control. And that’s going to be at a local level. That is going to be at a national level and that’s on an international scale,” said Blakeman. “Obviously, we’d like folks here in the Fort Wayne area to get vaccinated. We’ve got shockingly low vaccination rates. That means that every new variant that comes through is going to tear through the economy.”