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Employers, experts weigh in on Big Bend employee shortage

Posted at 6:52 PM, May 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-17 18:52:24-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Restaurants and others in the service industry are in desperate need to hire, even closing on certain days unable to keep up with demand.

Employers and experts both agree the financial impacts of the pandemic play a part in this.

Where they differ is in unemployment's role; whether its keeping people home or if jobs are paying too little for families trying to rebound.

According to the Department of Economic Opportunity, the service industry has lost more than 160,000 jobs in the state since the start of the pandemic.

"It's unprecedented, the shortage we're experiencing right now," said Chris Willis, the regional director for Action Labor and Staffing.

They're a staffing agency that works to connect people to a trade skill or other careers.

Pre-pandemic, their offices were normally full now it's a different story.

"We're probably anywhere from 20 to 25 people a day short of labor," Willis said.

Their not the only ones, Senator Marc O'Rubio Monday tweeting about Kool Beanz Cafe in Tallahassee.

The restaurant posting on social media they are closed on Tuesday because of the shortage.

The topic stirring debate Rich Templin with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations told ABC 27 wages need to increase.

"If more businesses would find a way to make greater investments in their workforce, people would be coming back to work," Templin said.

However, Willis believes with the increase in unemployment benefit of up to $575 in Florida--that is being used as a paycheck instead of relief.

"The folks who need this money we really would like to see them get this money the problem is, how they're spending it and that's what's frustrating as an employer,"
said Willis.

Templin argues, "It has nothing to do with the benefits."

The average wage for Floridians is $8.56 an hour.

If eligible for the maximum amount of benefits that would total to $14.37 per hour.

Employers are now appealing to potential hires.

"We'd like to see you get back in the job market," said Willis.

While others suggest a different approach on the part of small businesses.

"The game has changed, the workforce has changed, the economy has changed and that's what they're running into," said Templin.

Despite the shortage, the DEO's latest unemployment report in Leon County has dropped by 720 cases since March of 2020.

The federal program for unemployment ends September 6th.