The economic rebound still awaits workers

“They make a lot of profit in part because they save on labor costs, and the question is how long can that last,” said Julia Pollak, chief economist of the site d ZipRecruiter job. Eventually, she said, customers may tire of taking their own tables or sitting for hours on end, and employers may be forced to give in to workers’ demands.

Some companies are already changing the way they operate. When Karter Louis opened his last restaurant this year, he ditched the industry standard approach to staffing, with kitchen workers earning low wages and servers relying on tips. At Soul Slice, his soul-food pizza place in Oakland, Calif., Everyone works full time, earns a salary rather than an hourly wage, and receives health insurance, retirement benefits and paid time off. Hiring still hasn’t been easy, he said, but he doesn’t have the staffing issues reported by other restaurants.

Restaurant owners wondering why they can’t find workers, Louis said, need to look at how they treated workers before the pandemic, and also during it, when the industry laid off millions. of people.

“The restaurant industry didn’t really have the backs of its people,” he said.

Yet better wages and benefits alone will not bring back all those who have left the workforce. The largest decline in labor force participation occurred among older workers, who were most exposed to the virus. Some may return to work as the health situation improves, but others have simply retired.

And even some, far from retirement, have managed to make ends meet outside of a traditional job.

When Danielle Miess, 30, lost her job at a Philadelphia-area travel agency at the start of the pandemic, it was kind of a blessing. A while helped her realize how bad the job had been for her mental health and for her finances – her bank balance was negative the day she was fired. With unemployment benefits supplemented by the federal government providing more than what she earned on the job, she said, she gained some financial stability.

Ms Miess’s unemployment benefits expired in September, but she is not looking for another office job. Instead, she tinkers with her life through a variety of concerts. She’s trying to start a business as a freelance travel agent, while doing house sitting, dog sitting and selling clothes online. She estimates that she earns a little more than the roughly $ 36,000 a year she made before the pandemic, and although she works as many hours as ever, she appreciates the flexibility.

“The idea of ​​going to work in the office 40 hours a week and clocking in at the exact time, it seems incredibly difficult,” she said. “The rigidity of doing this job, the feeling of being watched like a hawk, just doesn’t sound like fun. I really don’t want to come back to this.


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