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10.19.21 – KSFM – SPRINGDALE, Ark.

Many people still haven’t reentered the workforce after quitting their jobs during the pandemic.

It’s an issue across the nation and it’s being felt here in Arkansas, businesses being short on help. Now hiring and help wanted signs can be seen everywhere you turn. 

Brent Hale owns Big Sexy Food in downtown Springdale and was unable to open its doors Tuesday (Oct. 19) because of a lack of staff. 

“The server I hired last week, she showed up for an interview, she’s got decent experience and a good attitude, we said come on back Thursday and let’s start working,” said Hale. “You know you don’t turn them away. There isn’t a lot of catch and release here. Once you catch them, you kind of keep them in the boat.”

Hale knows he’s not the only business feeling the strain of this staffing shortage. 

“We’ve been fairly lucky. We’ve had some pretty good staffing throughout, but we have had had to close periodically here and there,” said Hale. “We’ve kind of been picking and choosing based on if we’ve had a really rough weekend, we may be close down that Monday.”

The Arkansas Department of commerce says less, and fewer Arkansans are filing unemployment claims and our unemployment numbers have dropped to 4.2% when it was over 10.2% at the height of the pandemic. 

“There are just so many open jobs right now and not enough people willing to get back in and fill it and that’s a product of a lot of people just dropping out of the workforce during the course of the pandemic, deciding they are not ready to go back to work,” Secretary Mike Preston. 

Secretary Mike Preston says the federal unemployment assistance and child tax credit payments are reasons a lot of people haven’t reentered the workforce. He says they are also seeing that people have changed career paths. 

“The more certainty that we can have around the virus and where we are going as a state and a country, it helps people make those decisions and I’, optimistic that in the next couple of months we’ll see that trend move in the right direction of more people getting into the workforce,” he said. 

Federal pandemic unemployment assistance ended in Arkansas at the end of June and the Department of Workforce Services says they did see more people enter the workforce after that assistance ended.