Workers Sick With Omicron Add to Manufacturing Woes. ‘The Hope Was That 2022 Would Get Better.’
The Covid-19 Omicron variant’s spread among U.S. factory workers is slowing operations and stretching staff for manufacturers, leading some to consider unconventional, and sometimes expensive, solutions to keep operating.
Mounting absences among Covid-infected workers are bringing masks back to some factory floors, executives said, while manufacturers shuttle available workers to jobs and plants where they are most needed. Companies are also redoubling recruiting efforts to fortify workforces already worn thin by high turnover in a tight job market.
The speed at which the highly contagious variant is spreading has stunned some executives, who said they had grown increasingly confident over recent months that their companies had navigated the worst of the pandemic. The apparent decreasing severity of the variant is providing some hope that the number of cases will lighten and the effect on companies will abate in coming weeks. Some sidelined workers are quarantining at home as a precaution.
Meanwhile, with demand booming for manufactured goods from automobiles to medical equipment, executives said that idling production now isn’t an option. Manufacturers mostly have maintained operations since the start of the pandemic, in part because many operate in what are deemed essential industries.