We hire! | Itawamba Times
As the number of COVID begins to drop and people begin to resettle as before the pandemic, a new problem has emerged that most did not see coming.
Businesses across the country are struggling to find employees. After going through closures, quarantines, and then switching to curbside and online-only sales plans, businesses are now shutting down because they can’t find anyone willing to manage the registry.
According to the most recent monthly labor market data released by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, as the seasonally adjusted number of non-farm jobs in Mississippi increased by 3,400 during the month, the numbers were still down 33,800 on the year. Seasonally adjusted data take into account seasonal influences such as holidays, weather influences, and the start and end of the school year.
Mississippi’s unadjusted non-farm employment figures were up 5,500 from February, but are still down 34,100 from this period last year.
With most of the population now eligible for vaccination, employers are racing to plan their transition to full power. Which means that many jobs that were put on hold at the height of the pandemic are once again vacant. In many cases, employers must create new positions to meet the sudden demand from customers who are not wasting time returning to stores and restaurants now that occupancy and mask restrictions have been lifted.
“We’ve managed to retain about 80% of the original crew we started with in 2019,” Jason Beachum, owner / operator of local Guy’s Place on the Water hot spot told The Times. “We are recruiting for new positions because our staff are increasingly in demand now that people are leaving the office.”
Beachum explained what he believes has been the key to minimizing staff turnover.
“We pay well,” Beachum said. “Our servers are paid above minimum wage and they keep 100% of their tips. They’re full-time, so they know that even if they have a slow evening on tips, they’ll still have a full check to wait for. “
Beachum added that one of the biggest challenges it faces right now is a shortage of supplies.
“Restaurants are coming under fire now that everything is reopening,” Beachum said. “We are struggling to get consistent and reliable shipments, and we have to scramble to find other sources.”
Across town, Sonic Drive-In also struggles to stay full.
Melissa Dunn has been the General Manager of Sonic’s Fulton site for eight years now. It started as a caravan twenty years ago and has worked its way up the ranks. Dunn told The Times that in twenty years she had never seen a situation as bad as this.
Dunn said that after the latest round of stimulus checks and an increased extension of unemployment, employees have stopped showing up for work and are not even showing up to apply.
“We had stacks of apps. It started before the coronavirus hit, but it has worsened since then, ”Dunn told The Times.
Dunn said potential employees look at compensation, but also the work environment and flexible working hours.
“We work with people during their working hours,” Dunn said. “We try to maintain a good atmosphere where people like to come to work.”
Paul Dorn, director of operations at Sonic Drive-In, added that it’s not just a local issue, but something they see across the board. Dorn also said it’s not just entry-level employees that are scarce, but all levels, including senior positions.
Dunn and Dorn say they’ve increased the starting salary, even for those with no experience, to $ 5 an hour. Dunn added that car shops brought in between $ 50 and $ 100 in tips per shift.
As well as competing with stimulus and unemployment checks, Dunn says they’re also competing with new companies like Jack’s and, very soon, Taco Bell for employees.
Itawamba County’s unadjusted unemployment rate was 5.1 percent for March, 1.2 percentage points lower than Mississippi’s 6.3 percent. Only seven counties in Mississippi rank higher.
Tishomingo County to the north also had an unemployment rate of 5.1%, while Monroe County to the south was 6.1%.
Itawamba County Development Board Director Vaunita Martin told The Times that a total of eight new businesses opened in Itawamba County just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Another problem that employers face is the loss of workforce. In addition to competition from new employers, Mississippi’s unadjusted workforce has fallen by more than 15,000 since March 2020. Itawamba County’s workforce was 10,360 potential employees as of March 2021, or 90 less than in February and 230 less than in March. from 2020.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the civilian workforce is the sum of all people employed or seeking employment. To be considered an employee, one or more of the following criteria must be met:
- They worked at least 1 hour as a paid employee.
- They worked at least 1 hour in their own business, profession, trade or farm.
- They were temporarily absent from their work, business or farm, whether or not they were paid for free time.
- They worked without pay for at least 15 hours in a business or farm owned by a family member.
Programs that involve volunteer work, unpaid internships, jury duty, unpaid training, National Guard or Reserve duties, or helping someone in their home do not count as employment. .
Those who are considered unemployed met one or more of the following criteria:
- They were not employed during the survey reference week.
- They were available for work during the survey reference week, except in the event of temporary illness.
- They made at least a specific and active effort to find a job during the 4-week period ending with the survey reference week or they were temporarily laid off and expected to be called back. employment.
The most recent census shows that Mississippi has lost nearly 6,000 residents over the past decade, despite the fact that the South as a whole has shown the strongest growth in the entire country.
In March, Mississippi had 24,947 initial UI claims and 128,098 continuing benefit claims that paid out a total of $ 13,513,759. Compared with February, which had 39,614 initial claims and 136,429 continued to pay $ 12,298,864. As of March 2020, there were 60,097 initial requests and 55,357 continued requests.
Dorn told The Times he was not sure what the next step would be if they didn’t start filling positions.