Some businesses are facing a new challenge: Hiring workers back

Published: Apr. 10, 2021 at 8:12 AM HST|Updated: Apr. 10, 2021 at 8:15 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Businesses said they want to hire more people, but some managers report they’re having a hard time convincing folks to come back to work.

Restaurants in particular said that tough times haven’t allowed them to compete with unemployment benefits. Economists said there are many other obstacles they face.

Either way, businesses are happy more folks are dining in, but it’s hard to keep up.

“It’s a good thing,” said Sarah Nguyen, co-owner of The Pizza Press in Pearl City. “But as far as the demand, we don’t have enough people. Our staff is working a lot of hours, a lot of days. We need to add more people.”

Sheryl Matsuoka, a partner for multiple restaurants as well as the executive director for the Hawaii Restaurant Association, said, “It’s been very difficult to fill both the front of the house and the back of the house. But it’s not only me. I’m hearing from all restaurants that everyone is having a difficult time.”

Hiring remains a challenge, even with the 67,000 folks in Hawaii still unemployed, according to Carl Bonham, the executive director of the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization.

Bonham said there are many other factors that could be contributing to the issue.

“We’ve seen a drop in our labor force of roughly 16,000 people since before the pandemic,” Bonham said. “That’s a lot of potential workers that are just not there anymore.”

There are also challenges with child care and safety concerns linger.

But there is some good news.

“The latest surveys from the Census Bureau show that we’re actually hiring at a pace a bit above the US rate,” Bonham said. “That’s consistent with the expansion of tourism that we’re seeing.”

Retailers said they’re seeing different results from their help wanted signs.

According to the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, their members are getting an influx of resumes.

“There’s a lot of unemployed people out there that are looking for a job,” said Tina Yamaki, the president of the organization. “We have a wider pool of people to choose from right now.”

Economists said it’s not clear why one type of business might be more attractive to workers than the other, but if you want to get back to work, businesses want to hire.

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