One potential solution for business owners: hire more teens. It’s easier said than done.
Andy Diamond, the president of Angry Crab Shack seafood chain, which has 12 locations, said he was ready to hire teenagers. He just doesn’t think teens want the jobs he desperately needs.
According to Diamond, the restaurant chain faces a labor shortage for background positions like dishwasher and cook. He has increased his hourly wages and is offering referral bonuses in hopes of attracting serious candidates.
“Most teens, if they apply, I don’t think they want to work in a kitchen,” Diamond said. “If they apply, they’re looking for 15 to 20 hours a week, and that’s more likely in front of the house. “
Cooks and dishwashers tend to be between the ages of 21 and 35, he said. Jobs that are typically filled by younger workers, such as buses, runners, and hosts, are fully staffed.
The mismatch between the jobs that adolescents seek and the positions to be filled is only one reason for the current difficulties restaurants have in finding workers. The leisure and hospitality industry, which includes bars and restaurants, is still down 2.9 million workers from pre-pandemic levels. The unemployment rate in April rose surprisingly to 6.1%, defying the expectations of economists who predicted an increase in hiring last month.
Business owners have singled out the current workforce crisis over improved unemployment benefits, saying potential employees prefer to collect the checks instead of working at low-wage jobs. The enhanced benefits do not run out until September, although Montana and South Carolina are ending their participation in the program earlier. Other considerations of concern to job seekers include child custody and the risk of contracting Covid-19. The restaurant industry’s workforce weighs heavily on women, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“I have certainly heard the anecdotes of cases where workers earn more on unemployment than on work, but I think it is incredibly difficult to analyze how much is happening and whether this is causing the trend more. wide, because we have public health. question, the question of child care, ”said AnnElizabeth Konkel, economist for Indeed Hiring Lab.
Most of these problems do not concern adolescents. Child care is largely not a problem. The Food and Drug Administration has cleared the Pfizer vaccine for use in adolescents 12 years of age or older, and Moderna is currently testing its own vaccine on young people. Adolescents may also need a job to support their families.
Traditionally, the restaurant industry employs about a third of all working teens. In 2020, 1.63 million people aged 16 to 19 worked in food and drink places, according to BLS data. This is down from 1.73 million teenagers a year earlier, as the coronavirus pandemic led to soaring unemployment in all sectors, especially in the hospitality industry.
However, the participation of adolescents in the labor force was declining even before the pandemic. Extracurricular activities such as sports, volunteering, and college preparation take time away from teens’ schedules, making them less likely to have a summer job. Internships – paid or unpaid – have moved workers away from more traditional summer jobs such as rescue or working in a restaurant.
Each year, the Grand Ocean City, Maryland Chamber of Commerce partners with other local business groups to host a seasonal job fair for high school students.
“What we are seeing is that there is still a limited commitment in the number of these students entering the seasonal workforce here,” said Lachelle Scarlato, chief executive of the chamber of commerce.
This summer, Ocean City is forecasting a busier than usual season for its bars, restaurants and shops due to the increase in domestic travel. Without the adolescent workforce, the region faces a severe labor shortage. Embassies have lagged behind in processing J-1 visas, which typically represent 4,000 to 5,000 seasonal workers for Ocean City businesses. Only around 100 of the visas have been processed so far for the season, Scarlato said.
For some teens, it’s not for lack of trying. Karen Coyne of Hagerstown, Md., Said her 15-year-old son was struggling to find a job, despite the required work permit for a minor. He applied to several fast food restaurants, but no luck. Coyne said he felt companies didn’t want to hire someone his age.
Concerns about safety during the Covid-19 pandemic have introduced new reasons for teens to take time off the job market. Beyond health concerns, workers have also had to interact with belligerent customers who are unwilling to follow local or company guidelines. In March, a Jack in the Box employee was stabbed by a customer who he asked to wear a mask.
Twenty-eight percent of respondents to Piper Sandler’s biannual survey of adolescents said Covid-19 had an impact on their part-time job or their ability to find work. The company conducted the investigation between February 19 and March 24.
However, internship offers on Indeed are down this year compared to 2019 and 2020, and teens, like the rest of us, are eager to leave their homes, according to Konkel.
“Usually there are fewer internships this summer, so a student or teenager may be on the fence and end up saying they’re just going to work in a restaurant or a retail store, a traditional summer job, especially if he is ‘looking for a salary,’ Konkel said.
Some families have limited the scope of their teens’ job search due to the ongoing pandemic. Amy Gray is the mother of two teenage boys who found summer jobs in Cleveland, where they live. Although her 19-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter have both been vaccinated, they have limited their job search to outside or virtual positions.
“As a family, we don’t eat in restaurants or go to other indoor places where people aren’t wearing masks,” Gray said. “Plus, I work in a public service position and I have no way of asking my kids to deal with what I have had to deal with in customer service for the past nine months.”