Stays and inflation – and so many “wanted staff”
FOR many of us this year has been the year to stay, including my own home.
Living on an island, the allure of a sea trip inspired us to venture out on a ferry across the Irish Sea to the (equally wet) Lake District.
We had a great time and quickly adapted to the new reality of having to make a reservation for coffee at a cafe. One very notable thing, however, was the apparent scarcity of staff, and many of the cafes, restaurants and hotels we visited boldly displayed the “Staff Search” advertising.
It’s not just the hospitality industry that has been affected – as regular readers of this column will recall, I recently wrote about the gradual rise in the cost of home renovations, as well as the rising cost of home renovations. noticeable from the price of a pint, and I wondered if we should be too concerned about this inflationary trend.
For those who have tried to do renovations or construction work recently, it is not only the rise in prices that is noticeable, but also the fact that the people qualified to do the job seem to be highly reserved. Elsewhere, we hear of farmers struggling to bring in their crops in the absence of their usual pool of seasonal workers.
There are many potential reasons for this apparent reduction in staff availability, aside from the ‘pingemia’ which has led thousands of workers to self-isolate after being told they have come into contact with someone with HIV. coronavirus.
A combination of factors are at play and as we move towards new self-isolation guidelines in the coming weeks, as well as the end of the leave program, these will really start to be revealed.
After Brexit (and perhaps aided by the pandemic and travel restrictions), many workers in mainland Europe have returned or even stayed at home. Staff in the hospitality industry, who may not have been on leave, retrained and found employment elsewhere. And there is also a school of thought that after the pandemic many have reconsidered their work / life balance and have decided to retire or reduce their hours as they see fit.
Labor availability is a key economic factor, so as investors should we be concerned about this trend? We need to ask ourselves if there is a risk that these current staff shortages will drive up wage inflation, thereby eroding the value of our investment strategies.
At this stage, it is still too early to say whether this trend will be significant or even sustainable. After all, every year we have a new cohort of school leavers, students and graduates entering the workforce.
On the bright side, falling unemployment rates are a really positive sign of an economic rebound and post-Covid resilience, which, around the same time last year, seemed much more uncertain.
For new investors who have only experienced a low interest rate / low inflation environment, of course, any “spike” in inflation is likely to be of concern.
While there may be credible inflation-linked investment strategies (for example, investors turned to well-established big brands and big names around this time), we must recognize that the best strategy is to be as diverse as possible.
As the job market stabilizes in the coming months to reveal a clearer picture, investors should remain aware of how this factor could affect more than the wait time to be served at a cafe.
The availability of an appropriately trained and skilled workforce plays a key role in keeping costs from rising. In the meantime, we diversify, we look and we wait.
:: Jonathan Sloan is the head of Barclays Wealth & Investment Management in Belfast.