Former McDonald's USA CEO Ed Rensi argued on Tuesday that Americans are feeling the labor shortage "big time" amid a confluence of events, calling the situation a "nightmare."
Speaking on "Cavuto: Coast to Coast," Rensi also warned that continued elevated job openings amid the labor shortage will lead to a "catastrophe."
He made the comments shortly after it was revealed that a record number of Americans quit their jobs in November 2021, underscoring how persistent turmoil in the labor market has made it difficult for employers to fill open positions.
The Labor Department said Tuesday that an unprecedented 4.5 million Americans, or about 3% of the workforce, quit their jobs November, matching the high from September. That's up from 4.2 million in October and tops the previous record of 4.4 million in September. The pre-pandemic level was about 3.6 million.
Meanwhile, the number of job openings unexpectedly fell to 10.6 million by the end of November. The data comes before the highly contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus began disrupting the economy.
Resignations in November were concentrated in accommodation and food services, health care and social assistance, and transportation, housing and utilities. A majority of people quit for a new job.
Rensi stressed on Tuesday that if the trend "continues the way it is, it’s going to be nothing but a greater and greater catastrophe."
The new data emphasizes how newly empowered workers are quitting their jobs in favor of better wages, working conditions and hours as businesses lure new workers with higher salaries – a new trend dubbed the "Great Resignation."
Rensi pointed to a factor he believes is being overlooked, noting that more retirements are contributing to the problem.
He noted that the oldest of the baby boomers is 76 and the youngest is 58, and that "the first child of the baby boomers is starting to reach 56 years of age, so the retirement numbers are going to start to accelerate, and it’s going to be a lot of upward mobility because they’re leaving the workforce which is going to leave a shortage at the bottom end."
"We’re feeling it big time in restaurants, barber shops, daycare centers," he continued, stressing that "it’s a nightmare."
Rensi also argued that the pandemic is contributing to the problem.
"This new strain of virus is causing people to stay home because they’re ill and applying for unemployment and the unemployment benefits are very rich and there’s no reason to go back to work," Rensi argued.
As cases of COVID-19 surge, many bars and restaurants have announced temporary closures, modified service or vaccine requirements for indoor dining – difficult decisions that echo industry mandates from the pandemic’s earliest days.
The U.S. observed a record-high of more than 386,000 new daily COVID-19 infections last week, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Rensi stressed that there is "a confluence of events here that are really starting to pile on top of one another."
"Now we’re coming into the season of the summer when we need part-time workers in restaurants and other places because of seasonality," he continued, warning that "we’re never going to find them."
Rensi also warned that automation is becoming more common as a substitute for employees.
"We’re also resetting the business in restaurants particularly, resetting the menus, resetting the operating hours, cutting back on the days we’re open," he continued.
"It’s going to be a major change in what’s happening in the restaurant industry and other small businesses because of this shortage."
FOX Business’ Megan Henney and Stephen Goin contributed to this report.