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'It's really frustrating': Worker shortages are putting more money in employees pockets but could slow the economy

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The nationwide worker shortage that held down U.S. job growth last month boils down to this: America’s workers are raking in lots of money but they have fewer places to spend it.

Businesses that can’t find enough workers are pushing their existing staffers harder, converting part-time employees to full-time and asking full-time workers to put in lots of overtime. That’s stuffing more cash into the pockets of Americans already flush from three rounds of government stimulus checks totaling $3,200 since the COVID-19 pandemic began more than a year ago. 

In other words, workers who hunkered down at home the past year are awash in dollars and itching to spend them as the economy reopens fully this spring and summer.

But companies that can’t find employees are churning out fewer products and services. They’re setting aside restaurant tables that can’t be served and hotel rooms that can’t be cleaned. They’re cranking out fewer cars, appliances and floral bouquets for Mother’s Day. The labor shortages, combined with lingering supply-chain bottlenecks, means the economy, while poised to grow briskly this year, isn’t firing on all cylinders.

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