Labor shortages have plagued the glass, glazing and fenestration industries. Since the pandemic’s start, companies have gathered at industry events to discuss tactics to entice more workers, ranging from higher wages and better benefits to enhanced work-life balance. Despite these efforts, the number of workers entering the workforce remains low, per data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The November 2022 SCE Labor Market Survey reports that the lowest pay workers would be willing to accept for a new job rose to $73,667. Photo by Christina Hawkins.

In a Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, the agency reported that there were more than 422,000 job openings in September, which is up 21% from September 2021. The BLS’ Occupational Outlook Handbook on glaziers states that about “6,500 openings for glaziers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as retiring.”

To alleviate the strain of worker shortages, some glass companies are turning to automation. The pivot to control-by-computer (CNC) machines means that companies can hire fewer yet more skilled workers. Chris Cullum, sales manager for CMS North America Inc., says that the younger generation of workers are more technically savvy and seek jobs requiring technical skills over manual labor.

“The generation of workers we have now is not into working factory jobs, like lifting glass all day,” says Cullum. “They’re more interested in programming robots and running highly advanced pieces of machinery that operate with computers. The new generation is more technologically advanced.”

Workers Seek Higher Starting Pay

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported that low wages are also a barrier for many workers. The agency announced in its November 2022 SCE Labor Market Survey, which is fielded every four months, that the lowest annual pay U.S. workers would be willing to accept for a new job rose to $73,667 in November. The increase was most pronounced for respondents below age 45. This figure is the highest since the agency started tracking the data in 2014.

“The November 2022 SCE Labor Market Survey results show a rise in the average reservation wage to a series high,” writes NY Fed’s Felix Aidala and Gizem Kosar. “The survey results show that the continued upward trend in this series is primarily driven by employed respondents. The results also demonstrate the increase in existing salaries, but more significantly, the respondents’ increase in satisfaction with non-wage amenities in their current jobs are the main drivers of the rise in reservations wages since the onset of the pandemic, keeping everything else constant.”

The NY Fed’s data shows that the average lowest wage workers would accept for a new job began to increase at the start of the pandemic in 2020. Wage demands for employed workers rose by 19.4% from March 2020 to November 2022, compared to a 12% increase for respondents who were out of a job. Among employed people, those without a college degree saw the most dramatic increase, with the reservation wage rising by 27%.

Additional findings reported in the November SCE Labor Market Survey include:

  • The proportion of individuals who reported searching for a job in the past four weeks decreased to 18.8% from 24.7% in July 2022. The decline was broad-based across income, education and age groups.
  • Satisfaction with wage compensation, non-wage benefits and promotion opportunities improved in November.
  • Conditional on expecting an offer, the average expected annual salary of job offers in the next four months increased from $60,310 in July to $61,187 in November, reaching a new series high.