Singapore Markets closed

Walmart, CVS plan to cut pharmacy hours amid worker shortage

Pharmacy chains are cutting pharmacy hours to compensate for staffing concerns.

Video transcript

SEANA SMITH: All right, CVS and Walmart are reducing their pharmacy hours as a pharmacist shortage continues to hamstring the industry. This is according to a report in The Journal today. Now CVS, the nation's largest drugstore chain, planning to cut or adjust hours at about 9,000 locations. Walmart saying that it will begin closing pharmacies at 7:00 PM, instead of 9:00 PM, at most of its roughly 4,600 stores. Both companies saying that the changes will begin in March.

Now in a recent statement, CVS said it is reducing hours during times of low patient demand, or when there's only one pharmacist on site. Now Walmart saying that the shorter hours will offer its pharmacists better work-life balance and a greater capacity to serve customers in the hours that they are most likely to visit.

And just to paint the picture here just how hard it is to recruit pharmacists, to get pharmacists through their doors, Walgreens was offering bonuses of up to $75,000 over the summer to attract pharmacists. And when you take a look at pharmacy schools, the applications, the applicants there, that has been dropping off a cliff, down about a third from its peak a decade ago. So this is a problem that doesn't seem like it's going away anytime soon.

DAVE BRIGGS: And they were paying 20 bucks an hour to begin with. So this is a well paid profession and not brutal hours. But this is just one more industry facing a shortage. And it's essentially every industry at this point. We've heard about teachers. We've heard about nurses. We've heard about truck drivers. You've all heard about pilots, and we've all experienced that when we fly-- accountants. A massive shortage at the moment. It is everywhere, and the US Chamber of Commerce actually looked into that earlier this year.

None of those professions were among the highest of the quit rates, which is how, of course, they measure it. And that came in at retail and hospitality, those two different sectors. Retail is now at 40% of the staffing levels, where they need them. Hospitality is seeing a 5.2% quit rate. Where are we going to find these workers, Jared? How are we going to solve this problem? I can't help but think about H1-B visas and immigration because the labor force participation rate seems like it's never coming back from where it was pre-pandemic.

JARED BLIKRE: Well, we have a nasty, nasty recession. I think it'll jump back, but not in the best way, because people will be forced to work, come out of retirement. I was just tracking along with you, Seana, some of the incentives to fix what I believe are structural problems here, not only in the pharmaceutical industry, but everything that we're talking about. It's going to take a few years for this to shake out. They're even figuring out ways to use remote work in pharmacy.

So there are certain tasks, I'd imagine menial tasks, maybe computer tasks that you could do remotely. So they're exploring that as well. And by the way, we're going to be talking about ChatGPT and AI. Why won't AI be participating in some of these new--

DAVE BRIGGS: As pharmacists?

JARED BLIKRE: Yeah, why not?

SEANA SMITH: Yeah, I don't think you count anything out. It sounds like ChatGPT's coming for all of our jobs.

JARED BLIKRE: It just passed the medical boards, by the way.

SEANA SMITH: I know. It did. It did. You can't top-- and the bar and the MBA. The list goes on and on and on.