Businesses recovering from pandemic struggle to fill open jobs, forcing some to close

Service workers
Posted at 1:32 PM, May 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-06 13:32:36-04

Some businesses trying to recover from the pandemic are voluntarily closing their doors not because of restrictions imposed by the state in which they are located, but because they are short-staffed.

As more states open up, business owners are coming across a unique problem: there are not enough workers to meet demand, despite a higher-than-normal unemployment rate.

Currently, the unemployment rate is 6 percent, which represents about 9.7 million Americans who say they are actively looking for work. Yet, some are not applying to needed jobs in the service industry.

“We’re looking for servers and we’re looking for line cooks, and management positions, and sous chefs, and it’s been a challenge finding people,” said Matthew Brooks, director of operations at Crafted Concepts in Denver, which owns four restaurants in the city.

Brooks says he is short-staffed at each restaurant, and it has strained his existing staff. Vacation requests are few and far between, as his kitchen staff works extra hours to meet the increase in demand since Colorado relaxed its indoor dining restrictions even more.

“We’re trying to think of creative ways to hire people. We’re always asking our staffs to recommend and spread the word that we’re hiring,” said Brooks.

The same can be seen at Colin Rath’s brewery, Migration Brewing in Portland, Oregon, which has four open taprooms.

“It’s definitely not coming together,” he said.

It is not clear what is causing this disconnect between a clear supply of available workers and demand for that work, but there are theories.

Some have surmised people are more comfortable on unemployment as they make a similar wage and do not have the uncertainty of losing that job if things close down again due to tighter pandemic restrictions.

There is also the safety aspect as some owners have heard people do not want to increase their exposure to the virus if they have not been vaccinated.

“My operations manager and I sit there laughing and say, ‘Well if we’re not laughing, we’re crying.’ You know, it’s just that time and it’s something that nobody has ever gone through,” said Rath.

Rath says he has 10 positions open across his four locations and has no received a single application in recent weeks. Because of his shortage, he has elected to close his doors two hours early each day, losing out on the valuable income he lost during quarantine.

“I’ve talked to a brewery whose entire kitchen staff just didn’t show up,” he said. “They couldn’t open because they didn’t have a kitchen staff. Another friend who’s in the brewery world, two of their cooks just walked off the job that same day.”