Instead of firing, businesses may look for other ways to trim costs. Mr. Pritchard in Provo and his business partner, Janine Coons, said that if business fell off, their first resort would be to cut hours. Their second would be taking pay cuts themselves. Firing would be a last resort.

The pizzeria didn’t lay off workers during the pandemic, but Mr. Pritchard and Ms. Coons witnessed how punishing it can be to hire — and since all of their competitors have been learning the same lesson, they do not expect them to let go of their employees easily even if demand pulls back.

“People aren’t going to fire people,” Mr. Pritchard said.

But economists warned that what employers think they will do before a slowdown and what they actually do when they start to experience financial pain could be two different things.

The idea that a tight labor market may leave businesses gun-shy about layoffs is untested. Some economists said that they could not recall any other downturn where employers broadly resisted culling their work force.

“It would be a pretty notable change to how employers responded in the past,” said Nick Bunker, director of North American economic research for the career site Indeed.

And even if they do not fire their full-time employees, companies have been making increased use of temporary or just-in-time help in recent months. Gusto, a small-business payroll and benefits platform, conducted an analysis of its clients and found that the ratio of contractors per employee had increased more than 60 percent since 2019.

If the economy slows, gigs for those temporary workers could dry up, prompting them to begin searching for full-time jobs — possibly causing unemployment or underemployment to rise even if nobody is officially fired.

Policymakers know a soft landing is a long shot. Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, acknowledged during his last news conference that the Fed’s own estimate of how much unemployment might rise in a downturn was a “modest increase in the unemployment rate from a historical perspective, given the expected decline in inflation.”

But he also added that “we see the current situation as outside of historical experience.”

The reasons for hope extend beyond labor hoarding. Because job openings are so unusually high right now, policymakers hope that workers can move into available positions even if some firms do begin layoffs as the labor market slows. Companies that have been desperate to hire for months — like Utah State Hospital in Provo — may swoop in to pick up anyone who is displaced.

Dallas Earnshaw and his colleagues at the psychiatric hospital have been struggling mightily to hire enough nurse’s aides and other workers, though raising pay and loosening recruitment standards have helped around the edges. Because he cannot hire enough people to expand in needed ways, Mr. Earnshaw is poised to snap up employees if the labor market cools.

“We’re desperate,” Mr. Earnshaw said.

But for the moment, workers remain hard to find. At the bistro and pizza shop in downtown Provo, what worries Mr. Pritchard is that labor will become so expensive that — combined with rapid ingredient inflation — it will be hard or impossible to make a profit without lifting prices on pizzas or prime rib so much that consumers cannot bear the change.

“What scares me most is not the economic slowdown,” he said. “It’s the hiring shortage that we have.”

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<