Hawaii restaurants struggling to find employees despite nearly 60K unemployed residents

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Restaurants in the State of Hawaii are having a difficult time finding employees, despite 58,750 residents being unemployed.

Hawaii’s unemployment rate, which was above 20% in 2020, has dropped down to 9% in March 2021. The figure is still 3% above the national average.

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“It’s been a little rough honestly,” Mangiamo by 604 general manager Sarah Lovetre said. “Usually whenever we put out a job offering we usually get about 15 (applications) for each position and now it’s been about closer to 3 or 4,”

Mangiamo has openings both in the front and the back of the house. Listings have been posted on Craigslist, Indeed and other social media platforms to no avail.

“Especially bartending and serving there’s a lot of money to be made there but it’s just the people would rather stay home I guess,” Lovetre said.

Many people remain out of work due to conditions outside of their control, including child care and health concerns, among others.

The Hawaii Restaurant Associations (HRA) says the shortage of applicants is happening across the islands and blames the State waving requirements for folks getting unemployment benefits to search for a job.

“The intent of the President was very magnanimous but by creating that and not requiring people on unemployment to even look for a job for them to continue to get payment, that really takes the equation out,” said Victor Lim of the HRA.

Some restaurants may get some financial relief in the form of a $29 billion federal grant program announced Tuesday by the U.S. Small Business Association. Priority will be given to businesses owned and controlled by women, veterans and those who are socially and economically disadvantaged.

“There’s a certain amount of money set aside for the respective group and they’re also targeting the businesses that do less than $500,000 in annual sales so the chances for the small players to get it is very positive,” Lim said.

Applications will begin to be accepted on Monday, May 3. More information including training is available here and here.

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