Companies across the country struggling to fill millions of open positions, small local businesses hurting

Lafayette Parish

Lafayette, LA., (KLFY) – With over 8.1 million jobs open in the United States, businesses across the country are struggling to find workers to fill the positions.

A new report shows, 44 percent of small business owners reported they weren’t able to fill open positions, according to the Small Business Association.

Local restaurants, bars, and other small businesses are preparing to fully re-open as COVID-19 restrictions continue to be lifted across the country. However, they’re now facing another major challenge; finding workers to fill open positions that were lost during the pandemic.

We spoke to about a dozen local business owners who told us they were having trouble staffing. In some cases, this was forcing the businesses to close early or shut down for entire days.

“Nobody is coming out to put out an application,” Richard Hurst said.

Richard Hurst and his wife own Poor Boy’s Riverside Inn. They say with more people getting vaccinated and not out and about, more people are coming into eat. However, Hurst said he’s missing a main ingredient to providing high quality restaurant service; more workers.

“Right now I’m like less than half of the employees I had before,” Hurst said.

Poor Boy’s Riverside in has been in business for almost a century, now nearing the 90th year of being open. Hurst said he’s had to reduce hours of operation to help recover from the pandemic and due to the lack of employees.

“There’s not enough of restaurant workers out there that want to work and aren’t making as much at home at this time,” Hurst said.

While Hurst said it could be a variety of reasons people aren’t showing up for work, he believes it’s because of the extended federal unemployment benefits. He understands some people might not be able to work at this time, but said he’s getting applications online and then getting ghosted when it comes time to interview the applicants. Hurst said he’s thankful for the team he has but doesn’t want to overwork them.

However, this isn’t the only business struggling to staff in Acadiana.

Beverly Boatner is the owner of Clean Juice, and works alongside her daughter and several other employees. She said working through the pandemic has been challenging and they’re now trying to catch up.

“It’s hard to even stay open. We do have reduced hours, we would love to open until 8 again, we’re closing at 6 now, but we barely have the staff to stay open during the day,” Boatner said.

Boatner said she generally hires college-aged students and hasn’t been receiving many applications. She said she pays above minimum wage, but those looking for jobs, still aren’t biting.

Lafayette Economic Development Authority Manager of Workforce Development Ryan Lagrange said many businesses are competing for the same employees, and that there is a nationwide shortage of workers.

“I guess all of these jobs coming back at one time is a struggle. It might just be a nationwide demand as the up tick starts to happen,” Lagrange said.

Last month, we spoke to the owner of Burger Zone in Crowley. Sheryl Bartlett said she’s still having trouble finding people to work.

As the push for a higher federal minimum wage continues and companies continue to pump up their pay, small businesses say they’re struggling to compete.

Some small business owners understand employees want to be paid more, however, the owners say they wouldn’t be able to stay open if wages were increased.

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