Newsletter: Apr 20, 2022

Looking for a Job? There are Plenty to Chose From

Once upon a time there were more job seekers than employment opportunities in Palm Beach County.

But with the pandemic came an avalanche of changes in the way we live, the way we work and where we want to work.

Unfortunately for the healthcare and hospitality industries there are more jobs than workers.

According to CaeerSource Palm Beach County, the unemployment rate at the end of 2021 was 3.3 percent -- below the 3.7 percent national rate. There were also 38,564 job openings and only 25,223 unemployed people.

That’s good news for job seekers and a challenge for some of Delray Beach’s local businesses. Just ask Christina Betters, owner of Christina’s Restaurant in Pineapple Grove.

“I asked a 21-year-old boy who was having breakfast here if he would bus tables for me. He said he was looking for a job and when I offered him $100 for the rest of the day he just said, ‘No, I’m good.’”

According to Betters, who has been in the restaurant business for eons, the hardest jobs to fill now are busboys, dishwasher and cooks. “We’re been so busy and it’s only me and my dog Vinny keeping it together.”

Betters has experienced this employee dry spell since Covid and is lucky to have friends helping her out, but she’s also doing a lot of the work herself.

If you look at the statistics it makes sense. A record 4.5 million workers quit or changed jobs in November. Many left for higher paying jobs with better benefits and more flexibility. In Florida, the percentage of workers quitting for better jobs doubled over the prior year.

That doesn’t surprise Zach Shifflett, Director of Business Solutions at Premier Virtual (an online career platform). “It’s a job-seekers dream market. It used to be an employers’ market but Covid changed things. During Covid people saw that they didn’t have to go to the office in person. It was the first domino in the power change dynamic between employers and job seekers.”

That doesn’t mean there aren’t qualified candidates to fill positions in Delray Beach. It just means employers have to work harder and offer more perks to keep good help. One local Delray Healthcare agency admits there are fewer job candidates and they want more benefits. “It’s very competitive now and people can’t make a living on what they used to make, so we had to raise salaries 30 percent.”

That’s business as usual if you ask CareerSource Palm Beach County. “Many entry level jobs ranging from $9 to $11 per hour before COVID increased to between $14 and $16 hourly as the defacto minimum.”

It’s not just hourly wage that employees are asking for – they want flexibility, better working conditions and respect from co-workers and employers. Rosa Madrigal, of Pappas Tapas knew that instinctively. That’s why she allows employees a chance to go back to school by accommodating their school hours with their restaurant schedules. “Covid brought everything to a stand-still. People revaluated their lives during the shutdown and are going after jobs that fulfil their dreams. Either you’re going to be an employer who encourages your employees or you’re going to lose them.”

One of Madrigal’s servers decided to go to design school, so his schedule allows him to attend school and work. Others workers are following suit. But it doesn’t ruffle Madrigal’s feathers. “Our schedule allows our employees to do what they desire in order to fulfil their dreams, yet they still serve us and our customers.”

There is an economical component to Madrigal’s success in keeping help as well. “We take care of our employees and give them bonuses. We don’t hold onto their tips; we make sure they are compensated well. You have to do this to hold onto your staff.”

Another local restaurant, Caffe Luna Rosa is also cognizant of the need to be more accommodating to keep good help. Chef and co-owner Ernie Blasi saw half of his staff come back after Covid reared its head. Luckily, they never closed (but offered carry-out meals) so they did not lose their back-end staff.

They did lose half of their wait staff.  According to Blasi, some people moved on to other jobs, others are working from home, and some moved out of state to be with family.

Blasi tries to keep his staff happy in many ways. “I pay them well, but that’s not the only thing I do. I work next to them, not above them, and help with plates and other things. I also have their back when there’s an issue. If I have to, I will jump in and mediate things. I also create a family environment, because, let’s face it they spend more time with me than their families.”

Another thing that Blasi does is challenge his staff to be creative. When he writes out the daily Specials, he gives the wait staff micro projects to come up with menu ingredients. He also challenges them to come up with wines that compliment different meals. “That gets their brains turning, they’re not just going through the motions.”

A local hotel in Delray Beach is also seeing the difficulty in hiring seasonal help. “We advertise online and are finding we haven’t had the response we had in former years. Even when someone comes in and fills out an application, by the time we call them we don’t hear back from them.”

It's unfortunate that the hospitality industry, that drives South Florida (and Delray) is the hardest hit by this post Covid scarcity of workers. One hotel owner said they are contemplating four-day work weeks of 10 hour shifts and more time off. “In the hospitality industry you cannot work from home so we are trying out different ways to keep good people.”

You could blame it on Covid – or just a renewed sense of purpose. According to many employers – and Shifflett – people are now more aware of the quality of their life. They want a work-life balance that allows them to bask in the glow of family and friends, enjoy hobbies and work when necessary. The culprit – many say – is the new gig economy that’s fueling this financial independence, flexible hours and meritocracy.

There are other issues at play right now as well. Just ask Peter Pignataro, Manager of Performance Analysis at CareerSource Palm Beach County. “Baby boomers are retiring, so there are less workers and there is a housing shortage for seasonal workers.”

What Pignataro is talking about is the visa program for foreign workers to come to the US for temporary work. Called the H2B visa program, it has been a source of seasonal relief for Florida employers looking for workers.

But now that housing prices are in the stratosphere there are fewer places for employers to rent for their temporary help.  

According to CareerSource Palm Beach County, 43 area hotels, clubs and resorts have applied for over 2,000 H2B visa positions. But, many resorts that wanted to hire foreign workers this season couldn’t because of the high price (and lack) of housing.

Despite the housing issues, and lack of available workers in the hospitality industry, Shifflett sees a way toward a better hiring future. “It’s important for employers not to rely on traditional hiring methods. They have to have an aggressive mindset and be competitive. Perks such as health insurance and a 401K are good. You have to ask yourself, ‘how do we stand out from the crowd.’”

Good advice, especially in today’s job market.

Last week the Bureau of Labor Statistics put out a report that employers recently hired 6.7 million people, but there are over 11.3 million jobs still open.

For more information:

Premier Virtual has virtual career and job fairs.  or call: 561-880-5934

CareerSource awards grants to area businesses and employees for job training and educational assistance.  They also have virtual and in-person job fairs and career development and consulting at no cost if you qualify.  For information -

Best Regards,

The Friends Of Delray Board

Judy Mollica - President

Steve English - Treasurer

Gregg Weiss - Secretary

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