Supply chain crisis could last into next year, Pete Buttigieg warns

Administration is working to solve issues but some will persist, transportation secretary warns

John Bowden
Sunday 17 October 2021 16:10
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Biden speaks about supply chain

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Sunday that it was likely that the US would see some supply chain issues persist through 2021 into 2022.

Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union, the secretary contended that the Biden administration was working to alleviate issues facing the supply chain presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, but stressed that some would likely endure.

“[A] lot of the challenges we have been experiencing this year will continue into next year,” Mr Buttigieg said, before adding: “It’s the demand side. Demand is off the charts. Retail sales are through the roof.”

“Demand is up because income is up,” he went on to argue, drawing a connection between increased demand and a recovery from 2020 job losses. “Because the president has successfully guided this economy out of the teeth of a terrifying recession.”

His remarks come just days after President Joe Biden gave a national address concerning the problems facing the US supply chain, and faced questions from journalists about whether holiday packages would be arriving on time.

While Mr Buttigieg’s statements about rising demand are accurate, not all of the problems can be described as stemming from that issue. Much of the woes faced by both port overseers and companies up and down the supply chain result from labor shortages which have persisted over the past year, and have yet drawn little response from the White House.

Mr Biden, in his speech this week, announced that the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in California would switch to 24/7 operations, but the administration has yet to take action to spur more workers into the various industries responsible for getting goods from manufacturers or farms to Americans’ shopping carts.

Some industries including retail and food service have upped starting salaries in some areas in attempts to encourage greater hiring, but many trucking companies and other transportation-related industries were facing shortages of workers even before the pandemic began.

"We need the rest of the private sector chain to step up as well," said Mr Biden during his address. "This is not called a supply chain for nothing. This means terminal operators, railways, trucking companies, shippers and other retailers as well. Stretching our supply chain will continue to be my team’s focus."

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