Nashville’s economy is returning to pre-pandemic levels, but some industries in the region are still struggling to find workers.
Being a postal worker was a stressful job for Nashville resident Monique McClain. She says she left her career during the beginning months of the pandemic, then picked up new roles at a local hospital. But that was also nerve-racking.
McClain says that it didn’t sit right being exposed to COVID while others were starting to work from home.
“I was a bit jaded,” she said. “And that actually fueled me to say, ‘No, go home because you’re putting your health at risk.’”
She began putting her talents to use to make money, including selling clothes on Facebook. That extra income allowed her to pick up quirky part-time jobs that didn’t require contact with a lot of people.
“I don’t think that I’ll return to a traditional job in an office or a workplace, where I’m overseen by supervisors and managers,” she said. “I like the freedom that I have now.”
Today, McClain said she feels empowered to put herself first. She’s also been spending more time with family members. She’s one of many people who turned to gig work, remote jobs and side hustles during the pandemic and didn’t look back.
The push for higher wages
According to the most recent Vital Signs report from the local chamber of commerce, the region’s economy has just about returned to pre-COVID levels. But some Middle Tennessee industries are still struggling to find workers, even as the pandemic ramps down. They’re discovering that finding workers isn’t as easy as posting a sign in the window.
As a would-be-worker, McClain said the shortage could continue unless employers prioritize a healthy work-life balance and pay people what they’re worth.
“The living wage needs to be comparable to the type of work you want done,” she said. “And the quality of work you want done depends on what you pay.”
McClain said businesses should expect to get what they put out.
“Well, if you’re paying me $18 per hour, you should expect $18 per hour type of work,” she explained. “Any additional work requires additional funds.”
It’s not just wages
But low wages aren’t the only thing driving Nashville’s ongoing worker shortage. The city lacks accessible housing, childcare and transit services. There’s also the need for more job training programs.
Urban League of Middle Tennessee CEO Clifton …….