America’s COVID Labor Shortage Destroyed Many Small Businesses, Now Is Killing the Resale Market

The labor shortage that has been hammering small businesses throughout America during the COVID pandemic has affected not only the ability of companies to make ends meet. It has also significantly driven down the market for owners who want to sell their businesses and retire. 

Many small companies in the U.S. have accepted federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds to keep loyal workers on the payroll as lockdowns, slowdowns, and supply chain problems wreaked havoc with virtually every industry in the developed world. 

Banks look skeptically at some small businesses that accept PPP funds. They express concern about the viability of a business that accepted PPP funding and show doubt that they could have survived the pandemic without government assistance. 

The Federalist wrote last week about the experience of Gary and Judi Eubanks. They own an air conditioning business in Wisconsin and are interested in selling the business they have built up for over three decades to retire. They accepted PPP to keep their workforce intact as the government closed down many businesses that make up their customer base.

Judi said that they would have had to take out loans or go out of business without PPP. She said their revenue dropped by 28 percent in the first quarter of the pandemic in 2020.

In recent years, the Eubanks has also been looking for workers to train in their business to take over when they retire. They have had workers who have shown interest and have begun training only to move away later.

The impact of the pandemic now has the couple struggling to hire anyone. They have offered training on the job in an industry that usually requires trade school education. Judi said that she is concerned that people do not want responsibility and “don’t want to work today.”

The Eubanks have found that PPP has not been the only harmful effect the pandemic has had on their business. Their company has been hampered by federal unemployment add-ons, stimulus checks, and work-from-home opportunities that have all disincentivized would-be employees.

The couple also finds difficulty competing with fast-food restaurants and big-box stores that provide part-time work at competitive starting wages when new employees are not very interested in committing to a full-time work schedule.

The continuing changes in America’s economy because of the pandemic, and even more so because of the government’s response to it, will leave more and more traditional businesses desperately looking for ways to solve their staffing problems or make their businesses attractive to potential buyers.