Restaurants and small businesses can’t find employees
The lack of jobs during the pandemic created the need for many people to search for different ways to earn a living, moving them away from the traditional ways to get income.
By: Edda Pujadas
According to the Labor Department, figures of unemployment in Florida decreased from 12.9% to 4.7% between April of 2020 and April of 2021. Despite this, today the owners of businesses, restaurants, and small businesses can’t find employees to work for them.
The “Now Hiring” signs can be seen everywhere around the city, in stores, cafeterias, hairdressers, and restaurants. There is no one coming inside to ask for available jobs, and the prospective employees do not agree with the salaries proposed by the employers. Even when this should ensure that they can hire between 10 and 12 people, they can only get two or three.
Restaurants and cafeterias are the most impacted by the lack of employees. The figures show that due to Covid-19, around 600,000 workers lost their jobs and approximately 10,000 restaurants in Florida closed. As of today, the hospitality sector has fully re-opened, and they are trying to recover financially. They are working hard to be able to get back to the profits that they were having before the pandemic.
Recently, the retail sales showed the effects of the $1.9 billion stimulus plan (with an increase of 9.8% in March) over February 2021.
The combination of factors, such as the $1,400 stimulus check that each person has received and the increase of the Covid 19 vaccinations, have allowed the people to search again for entertainment options such as going out to stores, entertainment venues, and going to restaurants. Today the problem is a different one: the businesses do not have the necessary staff to provide service to the customers.
This situation is happening even when many employers, in their quest to stay open and provide good service to their guests, are offering bonuses to get employees. Recently the minimum wage increased to $8.65 per hour and $5.63 per hour for those jobs that can earn a tip. As of September 2021, this minimum wage will increase one dollar per year until it reaches $15 per hour in September of 2026.
One risk for many people working in the service sector (which can include but is not limited to: waiters, hair stylists, and salespeople) comes from the fact that they interact with the public on a regular basis, and therefore have a higher chance of catching COVID-19.
Another important factor in this situation is the ease with which people can request unemployment assistance without the need to prove that they have been searching for a job. The waiver to this requirement was extended until September 6th, 2021. This means that anyone that qualifies for the unemployment assistance will continue receiving the maximum benefit of $275 per week plus $300 from the pandemic assistance for a total of $575 per week.
In many cases, this unemployment benefit is higher than the salary that a person might earn per week while needing to comply with a schedule, spending on gas and food, standing for several hours, and among all be expose to the possibility of getting COVID-19. For this reason, many people prefer to stay home, protected from contagion, instead of having a job that helps them earn some additional cash from their homes.
Obviously, this is a short-term survival system, and sooner or later the obligation to report all the intents to get a job will be reinstated in order to get the unemployment benefit. It is also important to point out that the objective is not to earn a living from the government but to reactivate the economy.
The Labor Department figures show that last week, there were 576 thousand requests for unemployment assistance. These are under what the analysts were expecting, and it is the lowest number since March 14th, 2021. Projections show that these numbers will continue to decrease gradually.
“WE HAVE TO SURVIVE”
For the Economist Tulio Rodriguez, there are two very important aspects that need to be considered while analyzing why the restaurants and small businesses are suffering from a lack of employees, and they can be summarized in this simple and basic phrase: “we have to survive one way or another.”
During the quarantine that erupted from the pandemic, many people lost their jobs, but they still needed to generate income, so they had to reinvent themselves. Many of them did this by moving to the “home-based” side of their profession: for example, hairdressers or manicurists started servicing clients from their homes or going to their client’s homes, and chefs started cooking from their homes and delivering personally. Many people with different professions took a more personal route, moving away from the corporate scene.
For the economist Rodriguez, the key issue for this transformation is technology. People discovered that they could work from the comfort and safety of their home, and the only need was to have access to the Internet, a computer, a telephone, and to learn how to use some applications.
“Technology has changed the social behavior and the pandemic was the accelerator of this. We live now in a world in which you can conduct business, buy, sell, invest in stocks and study virtually and there is where the real change is,” stated Rodriguez.
For Rodriguez, technology is in the heart of today’s processes. Concepts such as money and the types of currency that is used for commerce are changing. “A society that can adapt to the technological transformations will be the first-world society”.
Regarding the manufacturing industry, Rodriguez believes that it will have to continue their automatization in such a way that the physical work is done by machines, and the human job will then turn to be to control those machines. “We are on the path of artificial intelligence and this includes restaurants and small businesses, these need to be able to integrate technology in their processes, decreasing the number of human resources that are needed to conduct each job. We are reaching a point in which we need to use robots, drones and a complete technological logistic to ease all commercialization processes.”
IN SEARCH OF FLEXIBILITY AND PROFESSIONAL GROWTH
According to a survey by “Pulse of the American Worker” from Prudential Financial, 1 in every 4 employees feel the need to change jobs again because they are in search of more flexibility and opportunities to grow in their professional careers.
The survey was conducted among 2,000 adult employees that are working full-time. It found out that 87% of the workers who have been working remotely during the pandemic prefer to keep on working this way at least for one day of the week. Among all workers, 68% stated that a hybrid job model would be ideal.
Among those that are planning to search for a new job after the pandemic, 80% stated that they are concerned for their professional growth, in comparison to the 49% of all the workers. Most of this group (72%) is reconsidering their skill sets. More than half of the people searching for a job have searched for new training and abilities during the pandemic, possibly preparing to change jobs in the months to come.
The biggest reason that those workers want to resign is that they are searching for a new job that offers more flexibility.