Apr 21, 2021 - News

Tampa Bay businesses struggle with worker shortage

A magnifying glass over a time card, gloves, and a briefcase

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Jobs are finally coming back, but workers aren't.

What's happening: Tampa Bay businesses are setting the example that to survive the post-pandemic labor shortage, employers have to supersize incentives.

Take the McDonald’s in Tampa, which was highlighted by Business Insider for offering $50 to people just to interview.

  • That tactic didn't get many bites, but the owner told BI that referral programs, signing bonuses, and allowing people to apply via text message have been working for him.

The big picture: Staffing issues are keeping businesses from fully bouncing back.

  • McDonald's and some other chains are having to delay the reopening of some of their indoor dining rooms due to a lack of workers, according to the BI report.

In Tampa Bay: 287 new restaurants opened in Pinellas County in the last year, according to Pinellas Independent Hospitality Forum co-chair Roger Curlin.

  • Yes, but: Curlin said in a recent St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce forum that staffing shortages are the biggest issue for hospitality right now.

Roberto Torres is frustrated that he's had trouble staffing his Blind Tiger Cafes and an upcoming Cass Street Deli location. He's offering a cash bonus after 90 days of employment.

  • Dominion Payroll Florida president Dennis Gallagher told Axios many of his clients spend hours trying to hire people, only for them not to show up on the first day of work.

This isn't just a pandemic thing: The shortage is here to stay, warns Jeffrey Korzenik, Chief Investment Strategist for Fifth Third Bank in Tampa.

Driving the issue: It's easy to chalk up the shortage to people preferring to stay on unemployment, but Korzenik warns it's much more complicated.

  • "The labor force doesn’t work that way. It isn’t that simple," he says.
  • Geographical and demand shifts, health fears and other factors are at play, he says.

What's next: Flexibility is key, for both employers and job seekers, Korzenik says. Those looking for work have to get out of their comfort zones, especially the longer they've been unemployed.

  • And employers need to be more accommodating, digging deeper into the population for marginalized people who could be great employees.
  • Of note: He wrote the book on hiring people with criminal records.

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