WASHINGTON – Northrop Grumman CEO Kathy Warden said the ongoing labor shortage plaguing the nation was a primary focus for America’s defense business.
“When I think about the challenges that we all might face going into next year, the labor shortages that we’re seeing are suddenly one that’s top of mind,” Warden told CNBC’s Morgan Brennan in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California.
“We have seen an increase in demand for the kinds of skills that we need to support our work at the same time that we’ve seen labor participation rates go down,” Warden said, adding that workforce was her “primary focus” in 2022.
Warden’s comments come on the heels of a jobs report that shows the U.S. economy created far fewer jobs than expected in November. In an address Friday, President Joe Biden glossed over the nation’s weak jobs report and instead focused on the low unemployment rate, which fell from 4.6% to 4.2%.
Warden also expressed concerns about ongoing disruptions to the global supply chain, triggered in part, by the coronavirus pandemic.
Along with labor shortages, Warden said that the defense giant saw shipping delays and chip shortages during its third quarter, in alignment with rising infection rates due to the emergence of the Delta variant. When asked about the Omicron variant, Warden explained that the defense industry will adhere to a playbook developed over the course of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ll continue to navigate through these COVID-related impacts,” she said, adding, “The industry has been able to do that over the last 21 months and we anticipate we’ll be able to do that going forward.”
Year-to-date the company’s stock price has jumped about 20%.