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Restaurants still struggling for workers despite better jobs report

Posted at 3:39 PM, Aug 07, 2021

DETROIT (WXYZ) — In the midst of a nationwide worker shortage, a new jobs report shows promising results - more than 900 thousand new jobs were added last month, bringing the unemployment rate down by half a percent.

However, the report is not a sign that the worker shortage is coming to an end.

In downtown Detroit, many restaurants and bars still aren’t back to their normal operating hours because they simply don’t have enough staff to do it.

So while this new report shows thousands of jobs were added last month, these owners say they’re not seeing it.

It’s Friday in downtown Detroit and Holly McClain is readying her staff at Olin Bar and Kitchen for another busy night.

“Everybody is just chipping in, they’re doing a little bit of everything to make sure they can give good service and have a good night,” she says.

Like nearly every restaurant in the city, Olin is short-staffed. They don’t open for lunch, and their general manager is filling in as a server.

“Our managers any given night are bartending, they're serving they’re hosting they're expediting,” McClain says.

Just a block down Woodward Marc Djozlija and his restaurant Wright and Company is also short-staffed. Two employees requested vacation this Saturday, forcing the entire restaurant to close for the night.

“Most days we’re okay, but we’re gonna fall into these different situations where we’d rather make sure the employees are happy and they want to stay in the long term instead of saying ‘no you can’t have this vacation request,’” he says.

In the midst of this shortage, a new jobs report shows the US economy added 943 thousand jobs in July and 380 thousand of those, were in leisure and hospitality.

“It’s a sizable dent, but there’s still a lot more to go in these sectors,” says Daniil Manaenkov, an economic researcher at the University of Michigan.

Manaenkov says beneath the overall numbers, there’s a sign the worker shortage is still ongoing.

“Hourly wages in this industry continued to go up in July, which probably points to a lingering shortage,” he says.

The job report also shows participation in the workforce is still lower than before the pandemic and with Baby Boomers retiring, it may not return to that level again.

“There’s still plenty of people on the sidelines who will come back, but it’s not a given that we will come back to the same place that we were pre-pandemic,” Manaenkov says.

Marc says many of his employees from before the pandemic aren’t coming back, not because they’re living off unemployment, but because they went back to school and found a new career.

“I think when we give people 16 months off, we give them a lot of opportunity to think is this what I really want to do, or was it a means to an end so now I can focus on what my long term goals really are,” he says.

But in the meantime, these owners are still in desperate need of staff, hoping to get the word out that hiring is still underway.

“Right now we're just not seeing a lot of resumes coming in. I have ads out but we’re not seeing much,” says. McClain.

With those added jobs, the unemployment rate fell from 5.9 percent to 5.4 percent, still higher than the 3.5 percent rate before the pandemic.