The Bureau of Labor stated that since the summer of 2020 there has been 800,000 less employees for the fast-food industry. On the contrary there have since been 120,000 new jobs created in the industry.
When COVID hit many people left low paying jobs to stay safe from the virus. Now in a tight market there is a huge gap between what employers will give employees and the compensation employees want.
This disagreement has led to lower hours and many restaurants keeping their dining rooms closed.
The McDonald’s in Kent has had to reduce their hours, closing before midnight instead of being open 24-hours like they were able to do previously.
“It definitely hurts us not to be open as late as we wish we could be in a college town like Kent,” said owner Will Galloway. “We made the decision to focus on the hours that bring us the most money overall. If we got more employees, I would definitely love to have this place be open past midnight at least.”
Local fast-food restaurants have been doing whatever they can to keep the jobs filled, including raising wages and having more flexible hours than ever before.
Taco Bell in Stow is one of the restaurants trying to gain employees by offering high wages. A base level employee can make $18 dollars an hour, while night employees and managers can make between $20-$25. Anyone interested can apply here.
“It just felt like we were getting beat out in the job market. We decided to help out our current employees, and also to attract some new ones,” said manager David Frost.
The workload for managers has been higher than before too. At the Domino’s in Streetsboro manager Lance Brown has been working most hours that his company is open.
“We are really understaffed, so I have been trying to be available and carry a large chunk of the workload,” said Brown.
Brown said that one of the hardest things he has to manage right now is making sure his employees are not overworked, but all shifts are getting covered.
“I know my college employees have enough to work on so I can’t make them work all the time, but I do really need more workers,” Brown said.
Brown has been working close to 80 hours a week in order to make sure everything is constantly running smoothly at his restaurant. Anyone interested in helping can apply here.
The labor shortage is not just a local problem, it is a national problem. A McDonald’s in Slippery Rock, PA has had its dine-in options closed since COVID first hit and still has no plans to reopen any time soon.
“It is not a matter of if we want to reopen it, we just do not have the people to keep it open and clean and well run,” said assistant manager James Valentino. “I hope we can get some more employees soon, but as of now we will just deal with what we have and make it work for us.”
Foot traffic in fast food restaurants have been down 67% since the pandemic started, and there is no end in sight for when it will rise drastically again, a study from Zippia has shown.
“I honestly think we have been just fine with our drive-through,” Valentino said. “This is the way I see the fast-food industry changing, so we are not in any rush to hire more and change it now.”
There are many causes of timing on why the pandemic has caused such a unique job market. Business Insider has listed their own research that may be able to explain why the shortage is happening.
Some of the highlights were that there is a higher demand for jobs that offer flexibility than ever before, which has caused people who may not enjoy their work to question why they work there.
They also stated that there was a boom in retirements. 2.5 million people retired in 2021, 1.5 million were early retirees. Concerns with health have caused people to enter an early retirement with no plans on ever going back to the job market.
A final piece of the puzzle is the lack of immigration since the pandemic. Since the US has created rules to slow up immigration since the Pandemic, as well as early era Trump-restrictive policies, there are an estimated 1.2 million immigrants who did not come into the country, causing a gap in the job market.
A combination of all these reasons and more may have caused a job market that gives the power to the laborers rather than the companies.
Though the fast-food industrial giant is not going anywhere, it may change more than people realize. Wages may be rising, while functions deemed unnecessary, like dining in, could be cut. Potential employees have more power than before, which can cause better working conditions for all.