Thomas Krumel speaks about labor shortages and COVID-19

Challey Institute’s Human Progress and Flourishing Workshop hosted Thomas Krumel at NDSU

Dr. Thomas Krumel Photo Courtesy | NDSU

The newest addition to the Challey Institute’s Human Progress and Flourishing Workshop came to the Beckwith Recital Hall on Friday, September 23. This seminar featured Thomas Krumel, an assistant professor of Economics and a scholar with the Challey Institute at NDSU, who joined the viewers via Zoom because of Covid concerns. His topic for his seminar was “Contextualizing the Post-Covid-19 (Rural) Labor Market.”

In his seminar, Krumel presents the job shortage problem which rose steadily after 2021 and worked to explain through his presentation as to why businesses have such an issue filling positions. Krumel stated, “I do think I have some insight based on the research that I’ve published on why at that point in time firms were having a difficult time filling positions.” 

Krumel, along with Liz Dobis and Austin Sanders, published a USDA report in 2022 that stated, “for example, meatpacking industry jobs, which are located disproportionately in persistently poor counties, acted as a catalyst for Covid-19 outbreaks during the pandemic’s early months.”

Krumel explained that through their research, they had discovered that counties that relied on meatpacking had far more outbreaks of the virus than other counties. Employees in the meatpacking industry were still working during the spread and served as a “primary vector of spread in communities that housed these plants,” according to Krumel.

Krumel showed the audience different graphs and charts that he had created with information compiled from his research. One such chart showed the top counties for Covid outbreaks within the first few months of the pandemic.

Krumel had discovered that eight out of the top ten counties were dependent on meatpacking for their economy.

An illustration of the conditions in the meatpacking plants, showed workers in close proximity to each other, and a quote from the New York Times saying, “before the Pandemic, some workers had as little as 3 feet of space at the cutting table. Plants try to use every square inch of the fabrication floor to maximize the number of workers and increase production.”

Since the workers were in such close quarters, it was very easy for the virus to spread between the workers, as opposed to separate spaces for each person in an office building. 

“If these frontline positions, these essential jobs are the positions that are most difficult to fill, it probably makes sense during this time period that people would be reluctant to reenter the labor market given that there were still significant concerns about Covid-19 spread,” said Krumel.

Since large corporations are proven to be the result of a larger spread, it might make sense that so many people would rather work in other places. However, as a result, so many of the larger companies are now currently short on work. 

Thomas Krumel presented an interesting view during his presentation that could be beneficial in how students, move forward from the virus pandemic. His talk during the workshop was both informative and eye opening toward the past and current labor shortage in our communities today. 

Leave a Reply