Raising wages, increased competition causing employee shortage


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Some local businesses still face issues as Virginia fully reopens Friday, with many saying they continue having difficulty finding employees.

Economists say high competition and a need to raise wages could be keeping “Help wanted” signs up for longer than many businesses would like.

Curtis Lyons, who owns Roger Brown’s Restaurant in Portsmouth, says they’ve had an employee shortage for probably the last six months.

Sadly, it’s not an isolated problem, but some businesses like Lyons’ have made changes to attract employees as Virginia reopens.

“We’ve never paid anyone minimum wage, so we’ve gone up above that even to 10 [dollars an hour],” said Lyons. “So we’re trying to pay more to employees, which is good that the wage is going up.”

That’s one way to get more employees, says Bob McNab, a professor of economics at Old Dominion University.

“Where we’re seeing a lot of complaints are people who are paying less than $15 an hour. Why? Because they’re competing for labor that’s making a choice to work elsewhere,” he said.

With people leaving the workforce because of COVID-19 concerns or switching industries for better pay, employers have to do their best to attract from a smaller pool of workers.

“It’s not just that there’s a smaller pool of labor, it’s that the pool that they draw upon has shrunk even faster because many people transitioned elsewhere, “said McNab.

Lyons says he’s just hired five more people this week and feels ready for the big rush as they fully reopen Friday.

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