If you have been out to eat or ordered carryout lately you must have noticed the staffing challenges faced by restaurants and coffee shops.
Almost every restaurant on the Shore and across the region is hiring. They simply cannot find staff to fill shifts. It is impacting their service and in some cases their ability to stay open.
Restaurant owners and their staff are doing their best with the resources they have.
They need our support to stay in business after all the tribulations of the pandemic. We also need to show restaurant staff and owners some neighborly patience. They are doing the best they can.
We also need to take a long look at why employers are having a hard time in hiring and retaining workers.
It goes well beyond conservative talking points of expanded and extended unemployment benefits discouraging workers.
Plenty of workplaces shed jobs and cut pay and hours during the pandemic. The remaining workers have been stretched thin with many facing burnout and ready for a fresh career start.
This trend is playing out across industries and regions including on the Shore.
Tough jobs are always hard to fill.
Tough jobs with lower pay and lack of benefits are even tougher to fill — especially during and after the pandemic.
Workers are making cost-benefit analyses on their current jobs and where they are taking their careers and work experience.
We have too many jobs that do not pay enough or offer enough medical insurance and retirement benefits. Some workers have quit jobs because of child care costs and shuttered classrooms during the pandemic.
Some of those workers are reluctant to return to work — especially for lower paying jobs with little mobility and limited benefits.
The landscape of work-life balance is very different in the U.S. compared to other industrialized economies.
Manufacturing jobs used to offer decent pay and benefits (including pensions) to help offset the strains of production work. Those jobs and their benefits have vanished for many workers in a contemporary economy dominated by services, automation and a focus on cheaper production costs in China and other foreign markets.
Employers and economic policymakers are going to have to look at compensation levels, benefits and how workers are treated.
Wealth disparity is also part of the equation.
It is easy for restaurant or retail workers to get discouraged with the system during the pandemic. Their jobs and pay were cut while billionaires such as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Bill Gates saw their wealth and stock portfolios grow.
We need a long look at the nature of work and the quality of jobs (including pay and benefits).
We need that analysis to move well beyond political and cable news talking points. Otherwise, restaurants and other employers are going to keep losing workers and will have a hard time filling vacancies.