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Business owners cite multiple factors, including unemployment benefits, in struggle to fill local jobs

'We’ve got like 200 jobs right now that are open,' says business owner
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Posted at 6:46 PM, May 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-11 19:00:01-04

SEBASTIAN, Fla. — Local business owners continue to struggle to fill job openings in the hospitality industry and skilled labor positions.

That’s trickling into the A/C business, which one business owner says might mean you will see slower service on hot summer days.

Kevin Barrett co-owns Arnold Air Conditioning in Indian River County. Because they’re struggling to find employees, he’s having to turn away valuable new business to make sure they can keep up with current customer demands.

“Probably a quarter of a million dollars. Maybe more,” Barrett said in potential losses from new business. “We’re running the crews that we have. They’re running all day.”

This is despite pay starting at $16 an hour for inexperienced workers who the company will train, and provide benefits with opportunities for promotion.

Now, he’s planning to buy a billboard to advertise his job openings beyond his job postings and roadway signs.

I’ve always had to solicit customers. Now, I’m spending that same money soliciting employees,” Barrett said.

He said the demand for more employees starting during the pandemic as more people were staying home, wanting more cool air.

The ongoing need for skilled workers, on top of boosted unemployment benefits, he feels, is prolonging the problem.

Following the announcement of April’s low job numbers Friday, President Joe Biden stated, “Americans want to work. Americans want to work.”

The U.S Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Neil Bradley shared a statement on behalf of the U.S Chamber saying, “The disappointing jobs report makes it clear that paying people not to work is dampening what should be a stronger jobs market. We need a comprehensive approach to dealing with our workforce issues and the very real threat unfilled positions pose to our economic recovery from the pandemic. One step policymakers should take now is ending the $300 weekly supplemental unemployment benefit. Based on the Chamber’s analysis, the $300 benefit results in approximately one in four recipients taking home more in unemployment than they earned working.”

President Biden said, “We’re going to make it clear that anyone who is making unemployment who is offered a suitable job must take the job or lose their unemployment benefits.”

Rich Kolleda owns Spherion Staffing and Recruiting, covering the Treasure and Space coasts.

“If they continue to extend this $300, it’s going to last a lot longer,” Kolleda agreed. He said there are more contributing factors.

“There are people who are still fearful of going out in public. There are still people waiting to get their vaccines. There are still people teaching their kids from home,” Kolleda said.

But for those ready to work, he has openings he’s hopeful to help fill.

“We’ve got like 200 jobs right now that are open that we’re recruiting for.”