Hawaii employers struggle to find workers

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Employers around Hawaii are struggling to find workers.

Retail, restaurants and hotels are the top industries in need of hires.

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Many say the federal plus up is a huge reason many are not returning to work. They are hopeful that Hawaii’s unemployment criteria now requires the unemployed to apply for at least three jobs per week.

Tiki’s Bar and Grill in Waikiki is in need of a dozen workers for the first time in years.

“It’s really interesting with the governor’s announcement, we’re encouraged on the way things are going, but it’s not happening fast enough, for us, I have over 10 positions open and we’re having a really hard time even having people come in and apply for the jobs,” explained Tiki’s director of operations Michael Miller.

Miller said the popular restaurant is in need of hosts, bussers, waiters, cooks and managers.

“It still seems like a lot of people don’t want to come or get to work,” he said.

“We lost a lot of residents to states that opened sooner, we lost a lot of employees to Florida, and we lost some workers to other industries such as construction, so we’re hurting,” Miller explained. “And the business is here for us, now we just have to find some great people who want to go to work.”

Industry leaders say there are other reasons people are not ready to go back to work, including the $300 federal plus up, personal schedules, childcare and wanting to work from home.

“Especially if they’re on an hourly wage, you know [the federal plus up] might be more than what the paycheck is that they’re bringing home if they were to work part time or whatever,” explained Tina Yamaki, Retail Merchants of Hawaii president.

Others say restrictions like social distancing, shorter hours and not being at 100% occupancy are also factors.

“Restaurants were hurt hard and now that they can open back up, they still can’t have a full house,” explained Beth Busch, Workforce Job Fairs executive director. “So, if a waiter works on tips, that’s probably not going to be as lucrative as it was before.”

Workforce held a virtual job fair on Wednesday, May 19. Busch said the number of interviews was promising and believes the reinstated unemployment criteria pushed more people to find jobs sooner.

“We had 567 interviews, and that’s a lot, that’s excellent,” she said.

She says employers are offering huge incentives too.

“I have seen flexible schedules, sign-on bonuses, higher wages, better benefits, everybody is competing, and they’re doing whatever it is they need to do to try to draw candidates in,” she explained.

She said she has seen hundreds to even thousands of dollars in sign-on bonuses being offered.

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