AUSTIN (KXAN) — Though unemployment in the Austin area has been slowly climbing the last few months, there are plenty of job openings, but not many takers.
In an interesting shift in the labor landscape, employers can’t find workers. Like Susan Davis, owner of Counter Culture, a vegan restaurant on the east side.
“I just had to stand back and be like, ‘OK, one day a week we can regroup,'” Davis said.
She hit a hiring hurdle, and was forced to shut her doors one day a week and give her overworked employees a break.
“I recently, about a month ago, put up a Craigslist ad and got no resumes,” she said. “There’s also In The Weeds, it’s a Facebook group and you just look through that and every day is someone — at least 20 restaurants are posting, ‘we need help, we need help, we need help.'”
Davis has been struggling to fill lower wage, sometimes lower skilled positions, at the price she can afford.
“I never start anyone out less than $11. I don’t feel like that’s a livable wage even at that, but if you have no experience or [are] going into it as a dishwasher, I really can’t afford more than $11 or $12.”
It’s a trend Austin hiring services are noticing as well.
I really can’t afford more than $11 or $12
“Four years ago we were staffing for positions that were maybe $9-$10 an hour, they were difficult to fill then but we were able to get some folks for those type of roles. But now it’s almost impossible to find anybody who will take those positions at even $11 an hour,” said Amy Moore, a recruiting consultant with KeyStaff, Inc.
Right now, Keystaff has 100 positions to fill, the highest number in years. The solution, they say may be for business owners to find a way to pay up because people are getting picky.
“We have all these companies that are large that are paying a really good salary and so they are competing for the best talent and so you have to be competitive and pay,” Moore says. “There are just more jobs than there are people willing to take the jobs in Austin right now.”
Rising home prices are part of the problem, making Austin less affordable for people with lower incomes. The median price for a single-family home in Austin has jumped more than 12 percent in the last year. It’s now more than $371,000.
And the city of Austin faced a similar staffing problem, struggling for several years to find enough lifeguards to open all of its pools on time. Then it increased the pay. In 2014, nearly half of the city’s pools did not open on time. At the time, those lifeguard positions paid between $8 and $25 per hour.
The same situation delayed openings in 2015 and 2016 — the first year the city offered a $100 sign-on bonus. This year, lifeguard pay starts at $13.50 an hour.
The city’s still looking to hire lifeguards and pool attendants, people who help enforce pool rules, pick up trash and clean debris from pool decks. That position pays $12 an hour. Thursday’s job fair is at the Aquatics Administration and Training Center on San Gabriel Street from 4-8 p.m.
Davis says she will be raising menu prices and offering even more company incentives to get employees on the payroll.
“It’s heartbreaking to see a customer, just as we are talking, come up to the door, turn the handle and realize we are closed. That’s the worst part, letting the customers down.”
Keystaff has an open enrollment period for all available positions Thursday, April 27 from 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. For more information visit their website here.