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If only Santa were really able to assemble toys with low-wage elves and deliver them in a reindeer-propelled sleigh in a matter of hours at the speed of light. Instead, labor shortages, rising energy prices and supply-chain issues exacerbated by Covid-19 will mean that some toys will cost more or simply won’t be under the tree for the big day.

The economic trend has extended to the men who play Santa Claus at parties and shopping malls, according to Mitch Allen, “Head Elf” at staffing agency Hire Santa. He says that he has seen a 121% increase in requests this season after a pandemic-slowed 2020 but that there are about 15% fewer professional Santas available.

Mr. Allen attributes the shortage in part to those Santas wary of close contact with young children, many of whom will still be unvaccinated this holiday season. That isn’t an unreasonable concern for older, heavyset men typical of the Santa set. Only around half of Santa events offer some form of social distancing. Meanwhile, many Santas have simply decided to hang up their black snow boots and retire since the last normal Christmas season in 2019.

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