Home US & World Small businesses are still struggling to find enough workers – the Chicago...

Small businesses are still struggling to find enough workers – the Chicago Tribune


Some small businesses are still trying to hire skilled workers, even as Americans return en masse to the U.S. job market.

According to a survey of 1,100 Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Voices companies last week, hiring and retaining employees remains a major challenge for small businesses. Ninety percent of the companies that hire people find it difficult to recruit qualified candidates for open positions.

In general, the US labor market is booming. An unexpectedly strong recovery after a brief but devastating coronavirus recession has forced companies to recall workers they laid off in the spring of 2020 and find new ones. Over the past year, employers in the U.S. have created an average of more than 540,000 jobs per month. The Ministry of Labor is expected to announce on Friday that employers hired another 396,000 people last month, FactSet reports.

But small business owners believe the job market is a story of two recoveries. Eighty-eight percent of respondents in the Goldman Sachs survey say small businesses are experiencing difficulties compared to large companies in their local communities. Forty-two percent say they lost employees because of larger businesses that pay more.

“Small businesses are struggling with large employers for pay and benefits and cite a shortage of skilled workers,” said Joe Wall, national director of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices.

ADP’s payroll processing data shows an increase in the employment gap between enterprises with 500 or more employees and enterprises with less than 50 employees. These small businesses have lost their jobs in the last three months.

In March, employers announced a record 11.5 million vacancies. There are now two vacancies in the United States for every unemployed person. But a large number of small businesses say they are having trouble getting candidates to even apply for vacancies, especially in the leisure and hospitality industry. The owners themselves take on more work and improvise other ways.

“I’m worried about the burnout. … It’s sad, very sad, “said Shirley Hughes, owner of Sweet Cheats in Atlanta.

At the peak before the Sweet Cheats pandemic were nine employees. Now Hughes herself has two pluses. During her reduced working hours – the closing time was reduced from 20:30 to 18:00, and now – at 16:00, which gives her and her two bakers more time in the kitchen. However, Hughes says she now works 80 to 90 hours a week.

Inflation is another challenge. Higher costs not only harm business profits, but also affect how well they can retain and attract employees. Before the pandemic, Hughes received hundreds of job seekers. Now she says she’s lucky to get one or two and they usually want $ 18 or $ 20 an hour when she offers $ 14 or $ 15 for experienced bakers.

Hughes had to add benefits for two of his longtime employees to hold on to them.

Teresa Depola is also taking on more work due to the lack of available help. She opened a Betty Boops Diner diner in Albany, New York, 10 years ago with her husband and son and continued to run it after her divorce.

Although ideally she would have three employees to manage the place, lately she has been one person: a cook, a waitress and even a delivery person.

“It’s small enough for me to do it myself, it’s not bad,” she said. However, she would like to add a few staff to serve lunch again. Since the beginning of the pandemic, it only serves breakfast and lunch and closes at 3 p.m. And she does not see that the picture of work will improve any time soon.

“I don’t think that’s going to change for a while,” she said. “I’m going to keep it the way it is now, people don’t want to work yet. I still have a lot of problems finding staff. “

While most major U.S. industries have regained jobs lost by the pandemic, the number of people employed in recreation and hospitality has fallen by 1.5 million, or 8.7%, since February 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Many in the industry have faced burnout after being at the forefront of the two-year COVID-19 pandemic, said Rob Wilson, president of human resources provider Employco. Some who remained in the industry switched to larger restaurants where wages could be higher. Others left and looked at new opportunities.

“No one to hire, no one is looking for work,” said Anes Bodassing, who opened Tiffin Box, a fast-paced Indian restaurant in West Palm Beach, Florida, in 2019 with 20 employees.

Last year, in April 2021, Bodasing temporarily opened second place in the food hall. But then the staff shortage began.

“Your staff level has dropped and the pay you pay people has increased. From the point of view of employers, this is the wrong equation, ”he said.

Bodassing closed a food hall kiosk and up to three employees in West Palm Beach. He is considering changing businesses to use fewer employees.

“Let’s assume that the employment deficit won’t change,” Bodassing said. “You can sit back and fight, or turn around and change businesses in a way that will take us forward even during times of scarcity.”

One option is to replace the cashier with an automated kiosk that allows customers to order and pay. Another option is to introduce meal plans when customers pre-order at least five meals that they can eat or freeze.

“You just have to think outside the box; literally nothing is out of the table, ”he said.

Matt Ensor, founder of Wing it On! chicken restaurants faced the challenge of maintaining a full staff of 35 employees at the company’s two corporate restaurants in Waterbury, Connecticut, and Raleigh, North Carolina. (The network also has 9 franchises that are still under development.)

“We thought it was widespread in our industry, we need to change our strategy,” he said. Ensora realized she was competing with other restaurants to lure applicants to the door – people planned interviews and then didn’t show up in 90% of cases. So the network started offering people a free lunch or dinner when they showed up. The ratio, he said, was “appropriate,” and most of the contenders came for an interview.

Meanwhile, at a rally near North Carolina State University, the company began offering scholarships to employees: $ 1,000 if they worked all year, or $ 500 if they worked one semester. The program succeeded, and next year the company plans to increase the amount for full-time employees to $ 2,000.

“It’s not that it was predetermined that you could place an ad and people would walk through the door while you hire them,” Ensora said.


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