While the official start of summer is just weeks away, some Chicago-area small business owners say filling typical summer jobs has proven to be an especially difficult task.
The owner of Ain't She Sweet Café in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood said the eatery has been able to maintain its customers, however staffing is a serious issue.
"I can't find any workers," owner Margo Strotter said. "They’ll come in. They’ll do the interview. You sign them up to work, and the next day they don’t show up."
Multiple business owners told NBC 5 it's hard to pinpoint why workers are slow to return following the pandemic.
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"I don’t know how much the unemployment really has to do with it or if it’s just a tough environment," said Dan Emerson, the owner of Gillerson's Grubbery, a specialty burger restaurant in Aurora.
Emerson said he's increased wages as a result of the worker shortage.
"We're busy. People are coming out," he explained. "They really want to support. On the other hand, with a shortage of workers, especially on Sundays, we’ve been having trouble staffing on Saturdays. We are seeing a reduction of hours during the week."
Some business owners say their vacancies could open up opportunities for others.
"When people can’t get enough money staying at home, they’re gonna have to find some way to make money and hopefully they do it legally by coming to get a job," said Trez Van Pugh, the owner of Chicago's Sip & Savor coffee shops.
The Illinois Department of Employment Security told NBC 5 it saw a sizable over-the-week decrease in regular unemployment insurance in the restaurant industry for the week ending May 29. For that same week, there were just under 720,000 continued claimants on all state and federal benefit programs, the department added.