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Local businesses are struggling with a shortage of workers

- by Carolyn Walkup, from My Villager, October 13, 2021

Businesses … are struggling with staff shortages at a time when finding enough help has become a nationwide problem. Retailers and restaurants in particular have been using every conceivable method to attract new employees. Some have had to reduce their hours as the only way to give their otherwise overworked staffs or owners a day off.

Three stores in the 1500 block of Selby Avenue have been sharing two clerks among themselves. Kristie Case, who owns Teeny Bee Boutique and Leo’s Footwear, has been helping out at Spoils of Wear as well. “We can’t find anyone to work for us,” she said. “We had five people before COVID-19 struck, and now we have three.”

Down the street at Tennis on Selby, 1599 Selby Ave., owner Deb Irvine recently closed her store for the weekend so she could take a few days off, resulting in an estimated loss of a few thousand dollars in revenue. “It’s never been this bad before,” said Irvine, who has operated the shop for 11 years.

Restaurants have been especially hard-hit by the labor shortage. Neighborhood Cafe, 1570 Selby Ave., recently reopened after being closed for over a year due to the pandemic. Though three of owner Kris Masanz’s cooks returned to work after the long break, three cooks did not. As a result, the restaurant is no longer open seven days a week. Masanz has also had to eliminate dinner service and is now only open for breakfast and lunch from Wednesdays through Saturdays. “We’re good,” she said, “but if I want to open more hours I’ll need a couple more cooks. I thought we’d be blown away with applications when unemployment ended, but that hasn’t happened.” Masanz was referring to the $300 federal unemployment benefit that up until September 4 was available on top of the unemployment benefits provided by the state of Minnesota. Thanks to the federal bump, many people were earning more money being unemployed than employed.

Other reasons cited by employers for the labor shortage include ongoing fears of COVID-19 exposure, the seasonal unavailability of high school and college students and an increase in early retirements. The number of Americans over age 55 who are working has declined by 2.5 million or 5 percent since the pandemic began, according to the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis. . . Sweatshop Health Club, 167 N. Snelling Ave., is looking to hire pilates trainers and guest services staff. “It’s really challenging,” said owner Gayle Winegar. “We had three people quit with no notice after two or three months of training. The twenty ­something generation has no qualms about quitting without giving notice. They have a lot of choices.”

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