Many Mid-South businesses struggling to find workers

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Many Mid-South businesses are struggling to find workers. Help wanted signs are all over the place and lots of merchants have had to limit their operating hours. 

Elizabeth Jackson is the business manager at “Jessie Mahan Child Care Center” on North Bellevue in Memphis. She says the facility used to operate with roughly ten employees but these days she only has three and says she can’t find anyone to fill the vacant jobs.

“We have made every attempt to entice and invite employees,” Jackson said.

That includes boosting pay from $8 an hour to as much as $18 an hour. The issue has forced her to cut capacity in half. The daycare currently is only able to care for about 25 children a day.

“We don’t have the staffing,” she said.

Neither do lots of other businesses. Jackson cites an East Memphis Popeyes on Poplar near Mendenhall as an example after what she says she saw the other day.

“The manager was out there explaining to the customers that no one had shown up for work,” Jackson said, “I was thinking I understand.”

John Gnuschke is a local economist with “901 Economics”. He says this trend is driven partly by government benefits, like an increased child tax credit, but mostly by COVID-19 restrictions lifting and more jobs opening up. 

“There’s been a big expansion for competition for workers. That competition has driven up wages, benefits, working conditions,” Gnuschke said, “There’s been a real shift in the balance of economic power from employers to employees.”

He says the situation is not going away anytime soon. He also says that, for some parents, the costs of childcare and travel don’t offset the benefits of a low-wage job.

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