AMERICANS ARE used to getting what they want when they want it. But these days they find themselves in the unfamiliar position of having to wait. Companies from General Motors to Nintendo complain of a shortage of microchips. Prices of lumber and chicken breasts, both in short supply, are soaring; and it is ever more difficult to get hold of a pair of roller skates or a hot tub. Even workers seem to be hard to come by. Firms are struggling to recruit enough staff to fill open positions—perhaps a big reason why the jobs report for April, published on May 7th, showed that America had added just 266,000 jobs, well below the 1m or so that many economists had expected.

The scarcities seem to go beyond the realm of anecdotes. Not since the mid-1970s have companies been so likely to report delays in supplier deliveries, suggests research published in March by Goldman Sachs, a bank. A survey of bosses by IHS Markit indicates…

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