In Texas, health care workers quit jobs to work at McDonald's

Here’s an unusual story out of Texas which seems to defy all the conventional wisdom about employment trends and wages. The local press has noticed that nursing homes are having trouble filling the health care jobs at their facilities these days. That’s particularly curious when you consider that healthcare has consistently been one of the fastest growing job markets in the country for several years now. So where are all of the trained healthcare workers who would normally fill those jobs? It seems that an increasing number of them have packed it in and left for jobs flipping burgers. (KXAN News)

Some nurses and staff are quitting their jobs at Texas nursing homes for more money working at McDonald’s.

Advocates say it is a trend they are seeing state-wide causing a nursing shortage at long-term facilities. The Housing Appropriations Committee has been listening to advocates about the growing problem.

Texas has one of the lowest Medicaid reimbursement rates, which makes it difficult for nursing homes and service providers to offer competitive wages.

“You know, you can start off at McDonald’s at $13-$14 an hour in some cases, you could certainly find easier jobs for more money and that’s a real problem when you’re trying to keep good people in your facilities,” said Scott Kibbe with the Texas Health Care Association.

Here’s a short video from the local coverage which provides a bit more detail.

There’s a parallel to the debate over the minimum wage here, though it’s not immediately obvious. First of all, the minimum wage in Texas hasn’t been impacted by the Fight for 15 movement yet, remaining at $7.25 per hour for the moment. But the state economy isn’t immune to the market forces which drive capitalism, and fast food workers in some high employment areas are earning as much as double the minimum just so McDonald’s can keep serving up meals. To be clear, this isn’t a bug in capitalism.. it’s a feature. Supply and demand affect the labor market as much as they do the sales of goods and services. Texas has a thriving economy with plenty of jobs, so everyone has to compete for the best employees. It’s a side effect of economic growth.

But here’s where the Texas situation does tie into the Fight for 15. Rather than focusing on loss of jobs in the lowest skill occupations, what happens when the government raises the bar to the point where jobs which require more work, training and skill no longer provide compensation which makes them attractive in comparison to flipping burgers? We’ve discussed this here before, but the situation in Texas seems to be one of the first signs of the phenomenon playing out in the real world. It’s true that, taking the long view, your top end earnings in the medical profession should far outstrip what you can make in a career in the fast food industry, but not everyone can afford to focus on the long view when they’re trying to put food on the table or get their kids into college.

Rapid, across the board increases in the minimum wage reduce incentive for job seekers to move into more skilled positions early on. Why go through a lengthy and sometimes expensive training or apprenticeship program to learn a growth skill when your neighbor who flunked out of high school is earning as much or more than you handing out shamrock shakes at the drive-through window? Keep an eye on this story in Texas because you’re going to see it start playing out in California and New York before very long.


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