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Local restaurants hope for hiring spree as Ohio unemployment payments lessen

WCPO stilley.png
Posted at 11:25 PM, May 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-14 06:49:07-04

In the race to a post-pandemic world, small businesses are barreling toward the finish line — and their owners are looking for more help as they prepare to serve larger crowds than they've seen in a year.

“We’ve lost a lot of team members to Amazon, and then on top of that, we’re competing with unemployment,” said Jean-Francois Flechet, who owns local restaurant chain Taste of Belgium.

His business had about 60 job openings when he spoke to WCPO on Thursday night, hours after Gov. Mike DeWine announced Ohio would soon opt out of the federal government’s unemployment insurance supplement program.

That program provided an additional $300 every week to people collecting unemployment benefits. DeWine blamed that payment for skewing the labor market and disincentivizing workers from seeking new jobs.

“If you look at why jobs are not being filled -- I’m sure it’s multiple reasons -- but whenever you go in and the market is distorted in that sense, you have certain consequences," the governor said Thursday afternoon.

At the Banks, Fishbowl owner Danny Scott is expanding as summer begins.

“We’re looking to hire about six more bartenders, a couple more cooks, more security personnel,” he said.

National news outlets such as the New York Times have reported the restaurant industry, more than many others, has struggled to bring workers back in 2021.

The Times argued many former restaurant workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic likely filtered into higher-paying jobs, including those offered by companies such as Amazon; others may be staying away due to a fear of infection or responsibilities at home. Eater, a national news outlet covering the restaurant industry, spoke to workers who said they found it increasingly difficult to take demanding jobs that paid low wages while offering few benefits.

Katie Eagan, vice president of government affairs with the local Chamber of Commerce, said she sees the need for workers in all sectors as summer begins.

“People are hiring,” she said. “They need workers terribly."

But she’s optimistic about the future.

“We're really hoping that this can help for some growth in the labor market and some growth in individuals who are taking some of these open positions so we can see the economy get started again and get right back to where we were in March 2020,” she said.