OKEECHOBEE – Recently an Okeechobee resident posted a message on social media wondering which of the local businesses might be hiring. The response came back: “All of them!”
Paulette Wise at the Chamber of Commerce of Okeechobee County, said many local business owners have reported difficulty hiring new staff. Some job postings get no responses. Sometimes people apply but then don’t show up for a scheduled interview. In a few cases, people who were hired didn’t show up for their first day of work.
Many restaurants have had to cut back on hours of operation or close their dining areas and offer takeout only because they can’t find sufficient staff to serve the indoor dining areas and maintain the required sanitation.
It’s a job-seeker’s market, explained Donna Doubleday of CareerSource Heartland.
“We have jobs, jobs, jobs!” said Doubleday. Unskilled, skilled or highly skilled – all sorts of jobs are available.
The extra $300 in federal unemployment compensation helps explain why some workers have decided to stay home instead of seeking employment, but it’s not the only reason, she explained.
“Schools closed or went virtual,” she continued. “When they reopened again, some parents elected to keep the kids in virtual school or go to home schooling.”
“Depending on their job skills, they may be making more money staying a home,” Doubleday explained. For some, when they consider the cost of childcare and transportation, even if a job would pay more than unemployment benefits do, the family is better off financially on the government assistance.
For some workers, finding childcare continues to be a challenge. School age children may not yet have returned to the classrooms or the family may not be able to find daycare for younger children. Even if schools have reopened, there are fewer options for after-school programs to keep the children safely occupied until parents get off work.
Childcare businesses are also having difficulties finding people to work, she said. “Daycares can only have so many children per teacher, and they still have to follow social distancing.” That limits how many children they can take in. Parents who want to return to work may not be able to find a daycare center with an opening. “The daycares that are open are filled,” she said.
For those who are unemployed, now is the time to look for a job because there is less competition, she said. If you previously were unable to find work in a certain field because other applicants were more qualified, now is the time to go after that dream job.
“I have seen employers who are increasing the starting rate and lowering the experience level requirements,” she said. But offering higher pay may mean the business will not be able to afford as many workers. For every dollar of increase in pay, the employer also has to budget an additional 27 cents to 35 cents for taxes and benefits.
“There are so many moving parts that will come into play,” she said.
Another issue is that during the past year, jobs have changed. Skills needed in many jobs are changing, Doubleday explained. This problem is exacerbated for people who have been out of the workforce for a year. She said CareerSource offered job training online during the pandemic, anticipating this issue. “We thought we’d see more people taking advantage on the training offered online,” she said. That didn’t happen.
If you don’t go back to work now, when you do start looking for work, the jobs may be gone because the businesses may be gone. If they can’t find enough workers, some businesses will close, and those jobs will not be there when people want to return to work, she cautioned. Doubleday said 67% of businesses are small businesses that could not switch to a work-from-home format. “They have to be there and they have to have people working there,” she explained.
Before the pandemic, those receiving unemployment compensation were required to look for work, she explained. When the pandemic forced businesses to close in 2020, that requirement was waived. The work search requirement is currently scheduled to expire at the end of May, she added, unless the governor extends it.
She said those receiving other government assistance such as SNAP were also previously required to be involved in a workforce-related activity. Currently that requirement has been waived on a month-to-month basis. Those waivers may end soon as well.
When the work search requirement is reinstated, there will be more competition for the jobs. “You have a better chance at landing that job today than you will when the waivers are lifted and everybody is going to be looking for work,” she advised. Once the waivers are lifted, “you can’t turn down any reasonable offer for work or you can lose your benefits,” she said.
Doubleday said the unemployment numbers have dropped, but that is deceptive. The unemployment rate is calculated by Bureau of Labor surveys. If the person surveyed says they are not looking for work, they are not counted in the unemployment rate.
For more information on jobs in Okeechobee, Hardee, Highlands or DeSoto counties, go online to https://careersourceheartland.com/.
For information jobs in Hendry, Glades, Lee and Collier counties, go online to https://careersourcesouthwestflorida.com/
For information on jobs in Palm Beach County, go online to https://www.careersourcepbc.com/
For information on jobs in Martin County, go online to https://careersourcerc.com/about-careersource-research-coast-2/contact-us/martin-county-career-center/