April 20

There’s an Influx of Jobs, but Where Are the Workers?

Restaurant job creation is ramping up, but the labor pool isn’t – here are a handful of reasons there’s such a stark imbalance in employment.

You know it, and we know it — hiring is more competitive than ever. The restaurant industry is experiencing the growing pains of the vaccination phase in the pandemic. Across the nation, businesses are struggling to fill positions in a labor market where there are far more available jobs than people seeking employment opportunities. Many factors create this imbalance, and unemployment benefits are only a tiny piece of the puzzle. Here are a few consequences of the pandemic that are impacting the labor market.

A surge in restaurant openings
While many restaurants are still not operating at total capacity, they can welcome more guests for in-door and out-door dining now that Spring is in full bloom. Since March, there has been a simultaneous uptick in need for new hires nationwide, far more than there have been people re-entering the workforce. The surge in job creation has caused a very competitive market. It allows those seeking work to pick and choose between the places with higher pay, better benefits, and more security or growth opportunities.

Lingering uncertainty 
We’re still in a pandemic, and with new spikes in cities across the nation, some like Portland, Oregon, are pulling back on the in-door dining capacity temporarily. For many workers, this proves that it’s not entirely safe to head back to work quite yet, nor is it a financially sound decision. Until it’s safe for restaurants to remain open at a capacity that can financially support their workers, many will likely feel more comfortable waiting out the pandemic for their safety and financial well-being.

Vaccine eligibility
The vaccine rollout is ramping up across the country, but eligibility hasn’t opened equally. All 50 states have claimed that they are offering vaccinations to anyone who wants one, with dates starting as early as the end of March through May 1st. As reported by the New York Times, a study showed a 10% increase of test subjects vaccinated related to a 1.1% increase in their employment — showing a slight correlation that vaccinations could increase the labor market. Until the vaccine has been open to everyone, it will be a few months before workers feel safe to return to customer-facing jobs.

According to a federal survey, only about 50% of schools K-12 are open full-time across the country. Without public schools allowing for in-class learning, parents with no other child care options must stay home. The Biden Administration has set the goal for most schools to reopen within his first 100 days in office. The rate of schools re-opening is growing in light of that promise, but it’s not at the level where we are seeing parents ready to re-enter the workforce.

Unemployment is complicated
Unemployment has been an essential resource for restaurant workers during the pandemic. For those who are not vaccinated or still have dependents at home — staying on unemployment may be the better option compared to heading back to a job that can’t guarantee safety. For others, the insecurity of losing unemployment could be enough to continue claiming benefits while restaurant seating capacity and hours are still limited and financial stability fluctuates.

Life isn’t back to normal yet, and we all know that. Hiring is complicated right now, and for good reasons, but there are a few things you can do to increase your applications. First, make sure your job post is detail-rich. List the standard items like compensation, hours needed, benefit options, job requirements, and candidate qualifications. But, also sell your company a bit. Tell workers who you are as a company, why working for you is a great opportunity — and lastly, what you are doing to make your work environment as safe as possible for employees re-entering the workforce.

About the author


Ashley McNally likes to cook, loves to bake, and is always dreaming of her next meal. With over 13 years of experience working in various roles within a restaurant — McNally has made a home in hospitality.


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