The United Kingdom has a jobs problem. There just aren't enough workers to  keep its economy moving forward, and many employees are growing angry  about inflation taking a large bite out of their paychecks.

The problem escalated Tuesday as thousands of rail workers went on strike over demands for better pay and working conditions

the biggest walkout on the railways in 30 years — bringing large parts of the network to a halt. More strikes are set for Thursday and Saturday.

A separate strike by workers on London Underground also halted tube services.

The railway strikes could continue for months, the National Union of  Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers has said, and teachers, nurses and  other workers could walk out as their pay falls behind soaring rates of  inflation

now forecast to peak above 11% later this year. Unison, a union  representing 1.3 million public sector workers, said last week that it  was "strike-ready."

This month's rail strikes alone could cost the tourism, leisure and  theater industries more than £1 billion ($1.2 billion), Kate Nicholls,  CEO of trade body UK Hospitality, told Times Radio last week.

Maggie Simpson, director of the Rail Freight Group, told CNN Business  that she expects between 30% and 40% less freight will move by train  over the course of the week, with critical products, including fuel and  supermarket products, prioritized for delivery.

She said she was "really worried" about a loss of confidence among  businesses that had been increasingly looking to the railways to ship  their goods.

A summer of strikes would deal a hefty blow to an economy that has slipped into reverse.

But activity was already being held back in industries such as aviation,  hospitality and social care because of a record number of vacancies —  1.3 million at the last official count.