AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Friday, the extra $300 a week in federal unemployment assistance for the COVID-19 pandemic ends in Texas.
According to data from Indeed, in states where they have already ended that extra money, fewer people are searching for jobs compared to the rest of the nation. In states yet to end the benefits, people are searching for jobs at a higher rate.
Despite the concern, the Austin Chamber of Commerce reported Austin regained 97% of the jobs lost due to the pandemic last spring.
Leisure and hospitality industries added 4,800 jobs last month, which is nearly 74% of all jobs lost in that industry in March and April last year.
This data makes it tough for some restaurants who are searching for workers. The Oasis on Lake Travis, a popular Austin-area attraction, is saying “no one wants to work” there.
Outside the Oasis, you’ll find a sign that reads: “Thank you for coming. We are short staffed. Please be patient with the staff that did show up. No one wants to work anymore.”
“The entire public is ready to come back, and enjoy the summer as much as possible,” said Billy Enney, Oasis assistant general manager.
It’s a great, but frustrating struggle for Enney, who does the scheduling for staff at the Oasis.
“I’m more flexible than I’ve ever been before. We’re accepting part-time work, we’re accepting less than part-time work,” said Enney.
As a manager, he’s having to work in the kitchen and wait tables too to fill in those gaps. Enney said staffing is down by 30% for the summer peak hours. Generally the Oasis needs 200 employees to efficiently run during the summer. Right now they’re a little over 100.
“We’ve tried incentive programs, we’ve tried referral bonuses, we’ve raised the pay across the board,” said Enney.
In Austin, the Capital Area Workforce Solutions organization helps connect people to jobs. Leslie Puckett, a research director for the group, said unemployment in Austin is trending down.
“Some individuals are still hesitant to move into those face-to-face jobs,” said Puckett.
In May 2021, more than 30,000 new jobs were posted for the Austin metro area. 5,000 of those postings were for the tech industry, with roughly 3,000 being for retail.
The National Restaurant Association blames three things for the shortage of employees: People nervous about working in a close environment, switching from cooking and serving to driving for Door Dash or Uber Eats and unemployment benefits that often exceed the pay for some jobs.
“Everyone is different, and everyone has a different situation in life with their family and health,” said Puckett.
Enney is banking on the worker pool expanding as benefits run out.
“We’re pretty much always at 90% capacity for the first floor,” said Enney.
According to Capital Area Workforce Solutions, the Austin-area unemployment rate is 4.2%, which is about 54,000 jobless residents. That number is 2% higher than pre-pandemic, however, it’s still less than the national unemployment rate at 5.5% and the Texas unemployment rate at 5.9%.
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