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How Long Will Supply Chain Disruptions Last?

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The short answer is well into 2022. But it’s complicated.

Restarting the economy after a pandemic and a recession is a challenge without modern historic parallels. Countless small and large businesses have to reopen. Millions of laid-off workers have to come back to work or find new employment. Manufacturers have to bring back production lines idled during the pandemic. This all takes time, even if you’re moving quickly and efficiently.

The pandemic made supply and demand extremely volatile. Production stopped and started faster than the supply chain was able to adjust. This is happening after decades of lean manufacturing. There was not a lot on the shelf when demand returned big time.

A White House statement indicates the disruptions will not be excessively long: “These shortages and supply-chain disruptions are significant and widespread—but are likely to be transitory.”

Yet no one really knows. Most experts suggest there are good reasons to suspect that this will be with us well into 2022 and maybe longer. Shortages and delays are likely to affect this year’s Christmas and holiday shopping season by making it much harder to find specific goods, but not all goods. A lot of companies ordered early. While that sounds prudent, the effect exacerbated the shortages, sending more surges of goods toward ports and warehouses.

Here’s a look at how the supply chain disruptions hit individual sectors:

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The White House is optimistic that the supply chain issues will resolve at the speed of toilet paper and PPE production at the beginning of the pandemic. “Manufacturers wrung a bit more out of their existing processes in the early pandemic. They ran plants at nearly 100% capacity and restarted idled machinery. Some streamlined their product offerings, reducing machine downtime and, in particular, shifting to large-roll products that could get more paper to households without costly changes to machinery.”

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