September was supposed to be the month when an absent North American work force suddenly reemerged and reported for factory duty.
After a year and a half of pandemic infections, home confinement, interrupted auto production, idled factories and furloughed workers, Sept. 6 marked the end of federal unemployment assistance that was enacted to ease the impact of smaller paychecks, failing businesses and people's reluctance to go to work during the pandemic. The assumption was that the program's end would send workers back to the job.
But many in the industry remain skeptical.
"I don't see it happening," said Charlotte Hoffer Canning, chief culture officer for Hoffer Plastics Corp., a family-owned automotive injection molding company in suburban Chicago.
"As much as I would hope and wish that the expiration of the unemployment benefits is going to solve this, I don't think it's going to," she said.