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From retail to restaurants, worker shortage hitting pandemic-battered businesses hardest

Published: Jun. 1, 2021 at 11:32 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 8:05 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With school out for the summer, this is the time of year when people are lining up to fill out applications.

But only certain businesses are thriving, while others think they’re being used to tick a box on unemployment paperwork.

Shani Bryant, the industrial manager at Altres Staffing, said they have seen at least a 25% increase in applicant flow.

She adds that certain industries are benefitting from the state’s decision to reinstate a job search requirement for those receiving unemployment.

“Construction is booming right now. Anything in that transportation mode, the warehouse mode,” said Bryant. “And those are the clerical staff that support those businesses, we’re seeing a definite increase in all of that.”

But other businesses, including retailers and restaurants, are struggling to fill positions.

Tina Yamaki, president of Retail Merchants of Hawaii, said trying to find frontline employees has been a challenge. “Maybe they wanted to stay home because of their kids, they couldn’t find childcare,” said Yamaki. “Or they’re enjoying all this money that they’re getting from unemployment.”

Yamaki said others may be exploiting loopholes in the system in order to stay on unemployment.

“I’m talking about applying for jobs that they don’t qualify for so they have the three jobs on their list, and they can continue to collect unemployment until September, with the plus up money,” said Yamaki.

Sheryl Matsuoka, executive director of the Hawaii Restaurant Association, said employees are being called back “but some of them already found other employment.”

Sean Uezu, president of Popeyes Hawaii, said they’re looking to ramp up their staffing but are struggling to entice people who may have smaller resumes.

“I think for any entry level position, a lot of the benefits being provided, are extremely competitive with the wages that we can pay,” said Uezu. “So, I think people are just not as incentivized to, you know, join back the working ranks and entry level positions.”

Bryant believes that post-pandemic, prospective employees may be more wary about finding healthy work environments.

“Make sure that the staff you have, know that they feel valued,” said Bryant. “And because you don’t want to lose them, you don’t want to lose them right now, if you’re really struggling to find good workers.”

Bryant said the state is asking employers to flag applicants who don’t show up for interviews.

Potential employees are encouraged to not ride unemployment for much longer, because the federal $300 weekly bonus expires in September.

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