COVID-19 still poses challenges to hiring for Alabama businesses


FILE – A Now Hiring sign at a business in Richmond, Va., Wednesday, June 2, 2021. U.S. employers posted a record 10.1 million job openings in June, another sign that the job market and economy are bouncing back briskly from last year’s coronavirus shutdowns. The Labor Department reported Monday, Aug. 9, 2021 that job openings rose from 9.5 million in May. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

MONTGOMERY, Ala (WIAT) – You may have noticed the last time you went out for dinner that some restaurants and retail locations are having a hard time hiring workers.

According to the latest numbers, the state’s unemployment rate is near pre-pandemic lows, but the job market has changed.

Many restaurants are having a difficult time finding workers despite the low rates.

“The restaurant industry as a whole looks completely different than a year ago.  And that’s going to continue to evolve and change as the situation with the pandemic continues,” said Kelly Betts with the Alabama Labor Department.

She says while the overall July unemployment rate for Alabama was 3.2%, businesses like restaurants are uniquely affected by the pandemic.

“There was sector in this workforce that had almost a year of unemployment benefits, increased unemployment benefits through the federal programs.  And they were able to take that time and possibly get more training, earn a credential and go on to other careers,” Betts said.

Alabama opted out of all federal pandemic unemployment relief in June, but Betts said the increased numbers of COVID-19 infections in the state could be hurting some businesses trying to hire.

“The risk of infection is always a concern. Safety for employees as well as employers is always big concern.  So, any jobs where you’re going to be face-to-face with the public, they will probably struggle a little more to get more employees,” Betts said.

The Alabama Labor Department has also been holding a series of career fairs in the state and operate 53 career centers statewide.

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