Can Big Back-to-Work Bonuses Solve San Diego's Employee Shortage?

A bonus just to sign on to work somewhere? Well, that's how some San Diego-area businesses are trying to drum up employees in a time when hiring is tough

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Back-to-work bonuses are booming.

“I've had an example yesterday of a company that's offering a $1,000 bonus for the first day,” said San Diego resident Phil Blair.

As co-owner of staffing agency Manpower San Diego, Blair knows the trials and tribulations of trying to hire people in this job market.

Blair said there are a lot of opportunities right now in hospitality jobs, light manufacturing, call centers, and engineers and programmers. So much opportunity that he’s trying to fill more than 300 positions.

Some San Diego businesses are so strapped for employees, they're offering bonuses as an incentive. NBC 7's Audra Stafford shares more.

To do so, Blair is offering a little signing incentive.

“We're among the many that are offering signing bonuses. It's basically enticing people to get off the couch and come back to work," he told NBC 7.

Manpower San Diego is offering $150 bonuses to people who stay on the job 90 days. The company is not alone in using this type of strategy to bolster its staffing.

San Diego-area Islands restaurants just announced they're offering $200 bonuses for dishwasher and cook positions during the month of May.

This past weekend The Lot, a movie theater and restaurant in Point Loma, held a job fair offering kitchen staff hires a $1,000 bonus. And casinos like Sycuan are offering $500 for cooks who take a job, or $300 for servers and cashiers.

When asked if this is a sign that jobs need to pay more, Blair said yes.

“Yes, in this job market. Life is about supply and demand,” he added.

The supply of willing workers has been dampened as companies compete with $300 pandemic-enhanced unemployment benefits, along with child care issues and lingering COVID-19  concerns.

Rebecca Hyde-Edwards is feeling the pinch.

She’s increased salaries to $17.50 an hour but is still dealing with no-shows for interviews as she tries to hire two new front desk assistants for her Little Italy salon, Hyde Edwards.

She’s adamantly opposed to offering incentives.

"No! Absolutely not!" she told NBC 7. "We all have to work and there is a certain amount of pride in that and getting up and having something you go towards and you make your own money. Absolutely not. No! I won't. I won't do that."

El Zarape is trying to fill two cashier and cook positions, but manager Francisco Ulloa said applicants who don't want to work weekends are asking for more money,      which could ultimately take a bigger bite out of customers' wallets.

Menu items may have to increase in price.

“You can see $11,” Ulloa said pointing to a dish on the menu. “Maybe in a month. it’ll be $13."

It’s an employees’ market now, but experts say that will likely change when the expanded unemployment benefits end in September, schools return full-time and child care businesses get fully back up and running.

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