Experts say ‘free money’ is not to blame for labor shortage

Worry tourism and hospitality industry are unstable post-pandemic

South Florida labor shortage has many businesses looking for help
South Florida labor shortage has many businesses looking for help

PLANTATION, Fla. – Experts are predicting some problems this summer as more masks come down and travel picks up.

There’s a looming labor shortage in the hospitality and tourism industry that is already affecting consumers in South Florida.

Almost everywhere you turn, you may notice “Help Wanted” signs.

“It’s very complicated to find people right now,” said Solomon Sánchez of the Cheese Course in Plantation.

For months now, Sanchez been trying to find workers, but can’t.

The business normally has 18 employees and Sánchez is down to 6 or 7.

Other businesses in the same area like Stromboli’s or Gyroville are also looking for workers, posting signs on their windows.

As Local 10 News found last week, many believe unemployment benefits are one reason folks just aren’t going back to service jobs, but it’s more complicated than that. Hospitality and service workers were abruptly let go at the start of the pandemic.

“It caused them (workers) to reflect for a long period of time about what they want to do with their lives and if these crazy hours and low pay are worthwhile,” said Peter Ricci, head of Florida Atlantic University’s hospitality and tourism management program.

FAU recently conducted a large survey on this very topic and found roughly a third of responders are still looking for work, but are looking outside of the hospitality industry after the pandemic shook things up.

“There’s a silo that — yes — is receiving unemployment insurance benefits, it’s small though,” Ricci said. “Another silo is that many people have found other industries to work in during the pandemic. And there’s a chunk that are completely disgruntled and disappointed in the hospitality industry.”

He says surveyors wanted stability some now need to work from home because of family.

As hotels prepare for what’s expected to be a very busy summer, Ricci is warning local businesses that something needs to change, noting restaurants and other businesses have had to close because of a labor shortage.

“If we increase the work-life balance, pay, benefits, we’ll be there,” he said.


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