Labor shortages have spilled over into the retail wireless industry

Retailer T-Mobile Arch Telecom is offering new employees a signing bonus of $ 700, according to research and consulting firm Wave7 Research. And Victra, a Verizon reseller, offered a signing bonus of $ 2,000 at some of its stores.

The anecdotes are part of a nationwide trend that indicates that a tight US job market has started to affect the wireless industry’s retail operations.

“In retail, we have virtually all of our stores open,” Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg explained at a recent investor event, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of his remarks. He was responding to a question about potential labor shortages at Verizon. “The job market is more difficult here. But with the value we deliver to our employees, we’ve seen great retention of them. But a little more difficult now than a year or two ago for this category of employees. ”

Verizon is not alone.

“We hear that this has an impact on store opening hours and we are seeing a few stores not opening on weekdays,” explained Jeffrey Moore of Wave7. “My feeling is that this is mainly a personnel issue, not the coronavirus.”

He added: “The larger context is that it’s not just about telecommunications, but of course, telecommunications is part of it.”

Indeed, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, 67% of small businesses said they hired or attempted to hire in September, and 42% increased their compensation accordingly. But a record 51% still reported vacancies, according to the Wall Street Journal.

There can be a myriad of reasons behind it, from federal stimulus money to lingering fears of the Delta variant to rising inflation. But the situation has clearly affected many facets of American life, from school bus line closures to shortened hours at the local cafe.

Interestingly, however, the situation may not have affected the wireless network construction industry, at least not yet. “Our guys are busy. Don’t get me wrong. They are really, really busy, working with different groups and construction companies across the country to be able to meet the demand, and they were able to do it,” said Tom Bartlett of ‘American Tower at a recent investor event, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of his remarks. Bartlett was responding to a question about potential labor shortages affecting the cell tower company.

The CEO of SBA Communications, another large cell tower owner in the United States, made similar comments. “So far, everything is fine,” Jeffrey Stoops said on his company’s last quarterly conference call, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of the event. “I didn’t see any issues on the work side. I mean, the fact that we maintain a large internal team gives us some flexibility there.”

The comments are noteworthy given widespread warnings in the telecommunications industry of a shortage of technicians to build new networks and maintain existing ones.

“The United States faces a shortage of 5G manpower. Estimates suggest that there are around 27,000 tower climbers ready to install 5G equipment. However, it is expected that 20,000 tower climbers additional are needed, ”said US Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said earlier this year, according to S&P Global.

Others agree. “Certainly, the shortage of skilled workers is one of the most pressing challenges our members face. We hear them all the time on this issue, ”said Matt Mandel of the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA), a trade association that represents the country’s cell tower. companies, according to a recent report released by AGL.

Nonetheless, shortages are evident in the retail sector of the wireless industry. “Wave7 Research has reported that the job market is tight, with staff shortages in some cases resulting in shorter hours of operation and fewer representatives to provide services to clients,” the company wrote in a recent report.

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?? Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G and Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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