Omicron worsens labor shortage, slows economy — and could boost inflation

Omicron worsens labor shortage, slows economy --- and could boost inflation

Canceled flights. Bare shelves at grocery stores. Reduced bus schedules. Schools closed due to staff shortages.

The rapid spread of omicron is threatening to sharply slow the U.S. economy and increase already-high inflation in the first quarter, economists say. Many companies are experiencing greater worker absenteeism, especially in viral hot spots such as the Northeast.

Take Washington, D.C. The city’s bus system has temporarily reduced the number of buses and routes because of more workers calling in sick.

“Metro employees live in some of the neighborhoods hardest hit by the pandemic and are exposed to the surge in the region and throughout the nation,” general manager Paul Wiedefeld said.

Supermarkets across the country are also struggling to cope with labor and supply shortages and keep their shelves fully stocked.

Jim Dudlicek of the National Grocers Association said omicron has exacerbated staff shortages. He said many stores have been operating…

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