Covid-19

Business Owners: Help Wanted Signs Just Aren't Working

Business owners and managers say they can’t get people to come in for interviews, much less show up for work, and they're stuck pulling double duty until they can bolster their staff

NBC Universal, Inc.

America's job market is millions of jobs short of where it was before the pandemic, but businesses complain those help wanted signs just aren't working.

Kim Nguyen owns Kim's Alterations along Coast Highway in Encinitas and has been trying to hire for one position in her small business for two months.

"I’m hiring right now, but it’s not easy," she said. "I tell all my friends, 'If you know anybody let me know.'"

Nguyen told NBC 7 she and her husband sometimes have to work until 9 p.m., three hours after closing time, to get all the day's work done.

Just next door is Q’ero Restaurant, Monica Szepesy's business for 20 years.

Szepesy said she's currently trying to fill three positions at her restaurant that serves South-American & Peruvian delicacies.

"We had three people who for one reason or another didn't show up for work yesterday… we just had to roll up our sleeves and do the job," said Szepesy, whose mother has been helping her at the restaurant as well. "It means being ready for whatever, whenever, which is hard, but I think after a year of being on edge like that it starts to wear on you. Having to do multiple jobs to stay afloat is really starting to take a toll."

She told NBC 7 if she can’t fill the positions, and she's considering changing the model of her whole business.

Since the pandemic began, Szepesy said she's had to turn to a more takeout-friendly model, but she's had growing requests for cooking classes and catering since more people are hosting events at their own homes.

The latter has been more lucrative during the pandemic, according to Szepesy.

"Do we continue this way like gophers on a wheel just going, going, going… trying to fill positions which is the biggest challenge or do we reassess… to something more feasible long term for us? That’s where things are starting to shift a little," she said. "I can actually do two [catering] events a month and make more of a profit than operating the restaurant all month long."

It’s a struggle small businesses across the country are facing after over a year of repeated shutdowns and layoffs.

Just over 265,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy in April -- much less than the 1 million expected -- the jobs report igniting controversy over what is causing the delayed comeback.

Some business owners blame a competition between wages and unemployment benefits, while economists say childcare duties, workplace safety concerns and career changes are contributing to the problem.

The unemployment rate in San Diego County is at 6.6%, compared to 6.1% nationally.

More than 8 million jobs were posted across the U.S. last month -- over 75,000 of those openings were in San Diego County.

Business owners told NBC 7 they hope people get back to work soon, because the faster businesses can get back to full strength, the better for cities like Encinitas.

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