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River Region merchants face challenges in finding enough help

Updated: Feb. 11, 2021 at 7:15 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) -There are good signs the overall economy is beginning to turn for the better but many employers in the River Region and beyond are grappling with a major challenge.

Here in the River Region, many businesses are feeling their way through the fog of confusion.

“We may have to turn business away because I don’t have enough help,” said Hampton Inn & Suites General Manager Anita Mays.

We’ll take Hampton Inn & Suites in Prattville as an example; 10 employees short, which means people like Janet Grizzell are picking up a load of overtime every week, but Grizzell would much rather have the additional help.

“I enjoy my job, but it does get aggravating,” said Grizzell.

Over in Millbrook, a similar story with Marty Bean.

" The help situation.. we’re struggling,” said Bean who owns the Front Porch Grill.

Bean and Anita Mays believe they know what the issue is; too many able-bodied people are sitting at home collecting their extended unemployment benefits brought on by the pandemic.

“They don’t want to work. We had one quit on day one, two quit within three days,” said Bean.

Not Allison Limbaugh. She likes her job here and plans to stay for awhile.

“I need a job and need to pay for my car,” said 16-year old Limbaugh.

Officials with the Alabama Department of Labor say Mays and Bean aren’t alone.

“We’ve heard from other businesses as well,” said Department of Labor Communications Director Tara Hutchison.

But that is where the perception takes a right turn. The jobless rate has plunged in recent months; 3.6 in December compared to a high of 13% back in May.

And there’s more; during the height of the pandemic last spring, close to a quarter-of-a-million Alabamians were receiving jobless benefits per week. That number is now between 85,000 to 95,000 per week.

“We understand there is a perception in the business community and perhaps in the general public that a lot of people aren’t going back to work because of the enhanced benefits which we don’t have any numbers to back those actuations up. In fact, the only studies I’ve seen which was done on the national level those studies show the enhanced benefits were not causing people not to go back to work,” said Hutchison.

Plowing through the pandemic has been a struggle for so many, and it’s no different for the business community. Janet Grizzell, for one, will continue what she’s done all along; plunge ahead with the hope the employment picture will soon get a little clearer.

When the state hit that 13% jobless rate back in May, that was the highest in 37 years in Alabama.

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