Mass. labor shortage has businesses scrambling for more helpAugust 4, 2021
While businesses have attempted returned to relative normal operations, the state-wide labor shortage has meant some businesses are still struggling to return to normal.
Some business owners believe unemployment remains high due to state and federal relief aid and financial assistance for people unemployed due to the pandemic. Although some can collect as much as $855 per week, in September, the federal emergency aid funding will expire, which will lower the weekly benefits by approximately $300 per week.
Waigh Marcos, owner of Arlington House of Pizza, said that he had employees who stopped working for him at the start of the pandemic, with the knowledge that they could collect from the state. He hopes in September they will come back.
“It’s been hard, but we’ve made up for it by working, my brother and my son all work very hard,” Marcos said. “We think in September when the benefits from the state stop, people will come back.”
John Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, said that while small businesses were originally excited to see restrictions dropped and business to return to normal, the labor shortage quickly reduced some of that enthusiasm.
“At the start of the return to normal, the small business community was very optimistic about their prospects. That quickly became tempered as consumers came back and they realized that they couldn’t hire enough employees to adequately serve customers,” Hurst said.
With customers returning to a more typical shopping experience this summer, Hurst said the pressure on them to deliver a strong experience to the public is critical to the success for these small businesses, which makes the hiring challenges even more important.
“You may only have one shot at treating a customer right and make them a longtime customer,” Hurst said. “If you give them a bad experience, if lines are really long, or you don’t have the staff to help everybody, they might not come back again.”
Hurst said that since the state now requires those seeking unemployment benefits to show that they are actively applying for work, businesses are seeing more applications, but they are not always the right type.
“It’s hard because businesses that are seeking employees are getting applicants that aren’t that serious about being hired. They are scheduling interviews and having people no-show the interviews,” Hurst said.
The race to hire the limited available workforce has hurt small businesses which are competing with one another and have been forced to offer higher wages, which can lead to higher prices for the consumer. Hurst said that the entire process has created a costly cycle for everybody involved.
“The costs are not just limited to your own payroll. If you are buying inventory, the costs of those goods has gone up because the wholesalers have to raise their costs to make up for their inability to hire new employees,” Hurst said. “The price of everything has gone up, and all of those costs go back…