Maine has jobs not enough people applying

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Companies recruit for all kinds of positions. The problem is, there aren’t enough people asking for it.

Welcome to the labor shortage, which presents its fair share of challenges for business owners and employees. Call the shortage the second right hook into a one-two, in the wake of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses throughout 2020 and into early 2021.

Take for example, Port candy store on Main Street in Ogunquit. There is a sign in the front window, letting anyone pass by that the place is hiring. Store manager Colleen Osselaer said she currently has 26 employees. Ideally, that number would be 35, as in the summer of 2019, before the pandemic.

“We don’t hope to reach that number,” Osselaer said on Tuesday. “It’s unrealistic this year.

Colleen Osselaer, manager of Harbor Candy Shop in Ogunquit, Maine, struggles to hire employees at her store as businesses face labor shortages amid the ripple effects of the pandemic of COVID-19.

Ashley Padget, the owner of Alisson Restaurant at Dock Square in Kennebunkport, faces the same challenge. Alisson would be ready if she could just hire two line cooks and a dishwasher, Padget said on Wednesday. She has been announcing the openings everywhere, including online, including on Indeed, Facebook and Craigslist, since February.

“We’ve tried everything,” said Padget. “No answer. These are just crickets.

In Sanford, staffing is going well right now at Smitty’s Theaters, which have been operating for months as a the only cinema open in York County. But deputy director Manley Irish has said the cinema will need more staff once the blockbuster summer season really begins – as will likely be the case with the release of the latest ‘Fast and Furious’ sequel this year. week – and additional screenings will be added earlier. during the day.

Currently, the theater has around 40 employees, according to Irish. A full complement would be 60, he added.

“We are hiring,” Irish said on Tuesday. “We’re almost where we want to be, but right now we’re at the bottom. We have enough for what we do, but not enough for what we want to do.

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What is happening?

Jessica Picard, communications manager for the Maine Department of Labor, said the pandemic was one of the reasons for the shortage.

“The pandemic has tightened the job market, but the problem is not new,” Picard said. “It has been difficult for Maine employers, especially seasonal employers, to meet staffing needs in regular years. The pandemic has created additional barriers preventing some from connecting to the job market in the same way they were before the pandemic. “

Picard said these factors included school closures and a shift to distance and hybrid learning models, childcare needs, personal safety concerns and fewer workers coming to Maine via visa programs, given that “some travel restrictions remain in place and public health conditions vary in other countries.”

Maine no longer forces travelers to take COVID test or quarantine upon entering the state. Non-essential travel to the Canadian border will remain prohibited at least until July 21.

Colleen Osselaer, manager of Harbor Candy Shop, struggles to hire employees at her store in Ogunquit, Maine, as businesses grapple with the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Back at the confectionery store, Osselaer said she knew why there was a labor shortage in Maine and elsewhere.

“This is because the government continues to give money back to people to stay at home,” she said, referring to state and federal funding that has been provided to individuals to help them. to meet various needs during the pandemic. “People earn more by staying at home. “

Due to the pandemic, Congress approved an additional federal unemployment compensation of $ 300 per week and extended this program until September 4, 2021. In many cases, Mainers may keep the additional weekly federal payment of $ 300 even. while working part time, according to the Maine Department of Labor.

Osselaer said she was not against such resources for people who really need them – she remembered a time in her own life when she needed them – but there are people who “ don’t want to work for $ 13 or $ 14 an hour, ”she said.

Padget has ventured his own explanation for the shortage, particularly with regard to the restaurant industry. She said the pandemic has prompted people to re-evaluate their lives and perhaps chart different career paths.

“I think a lot of people have quit work in a restaurant because it’s difficult and stressful,” she said.

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From a national perspective, USA Today reporter Paul Davidson reported this month of workers who have retired from jobs for another reason: they started their own business. Entrepreneurs have been filing applications to start their own businesses at a record pace since last summer.

Companies downsize their operations

Osselaer manages a second store, H&M Crumpets’, which is adjacent to the Harbor Candy Shop. The lack of staff is such that the store so far this year has had to stay closed for a few days.

“We had a beautiful day yesterday,” she said, referring to the weather forecast on Monday, “but we were closed because we didn’t have the staff.”

Ossalaer said she has given raises to her current employees so that they don’t earn as much as new employees earn on their first day on the job.

Ossalaer said the state’s new minimum wage is also substantial.

“It has an economic impact,” she said.

In 2009, the minimum wage in Maine was $ 7.50 per hour, which was 25 cents more than the federal minimum wage. Maine increased its minimum to $ 9 in 2017, $ 10 in 2018, $ 11 in 2019, and $ 12 in 2020, while the federal minimum remained the same.

Maine raised its minimum wage again this year, to $ 12.15 an hour, according to inflation. The state’s current peak wage, or the minimum wage for service employees, is $ 6.08 per hour.

Padget said the shortage at Alisson places a lot of stress on his current employees, especially those in the kitchen. Currently, employees work an average of 50 hours per week.

“They were amazing, the people who stayed with us,” said Padget.

To alleviate overtime and ensure that employees don’t burn out, Restaurant Alisson has reduced its food service hours. Typically, before the pandemic, the restaurant would stay open until midnight. But these days?

“We stop serving food at nine o’clock,” said Padget. “It was tough.”

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Padget said she was offering an additional $ 1 an hour to employees who continue to work at the restaurant until Indigenous Peoples Day in October. Other restaurateurs are trying similar measures to attract and retain their workforce, she said.

“People try to be creative, but that doesn’t attract a pool of people,” she added.

Padget said she often hears people suggest that restaurants and other businesses would have no problem hiring people if only they offered employees a “living wage.”

“I don’t like it,” she said. “I think restaurants care a lot more than this characterization (suggests). Good restaurants have always paid well and looked after their employees. “

Padget said Alisson offers a salary of between $ 18 and $ 25 an hour, with benefits, for a year-round job.

At Sanford, Irish said Smitty has only tripped over the labor shortage once. The movie theater, which also serves as a restaurant, had to halt ticket sales overnight during the recent Memorial Day weekend because the limited staff available would not have been able to handle packed theaters.

“If we had had three more servers and two more cooks that night we could have been ready,” Irish said.

Irish said the theater currently has maximum hours for employees and has no room for calls, such as workers making themselves sick.

What is the extent of the problem?

Picard said the Labor Department does not know exactly how many positions are available in the state, but she referred to Maine JobLink as a source of information.

There are 1,120 positions available in York County that are posted on Maine JobLink, according to Picard. The top five sectors are health care and social assistance (411 positions), retail trade (142), accommodation and food services (68), manufacturing (48), and transportation and warehousing ( 39).

“Job seekers have many options right now and are selective,” Picard said. “Some choose jobs based on wages, flexibility, etc. We work with employers to promote aspects of their jobs that may be of interest to job seekers.

Employers can register their vacant positions free of charge. They can also indicate on the site that they are participating in the new Back to work grant program, which provides funds to businesses to help them provide hiring bonuses to new hires who qualify.

The program offers a single payment to employers for eligible workers who start their employment this month or the following month. The payment is $ 1,500 for June 15-30 and $ 1,000 for July.

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What struggling businesses can do

Maine career centers across the state have a variety of resources for businesses, according to Picard.

“They can help organize a hiring event, give tips on how to post eye-catching job postings, and connect an employer with thousands of job seekers on the recently updated Maine JobLink,” she declared.

Employers registered with JobLink can perform a “reverse job search” of over 3,400 resumes to identify matches by geography, skills, education, experience and more, Picard noted.

“In May, over 26,000 job seekers were browsing Maine JobLink,” she said.

The state also has a Resource Guide for Employers online.

Picard said those interested in business services can contact the CareerCenter by email at [email protected], by phone at (207) 623-7981, or through a LiveChat feature at MaineCareerCenter.gov.

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