5.3.21 – Sun Herald
Help wanted signs are posted on the marquees, windows and websites of many restaurants and other businesses across the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
It’s a sign of the times as more people feel comfortable going out to eat or taking a vacation now that new coronavirus cases have eased and vaccinations continue.
Yet employers say they are struggling to fill open positions and are taking extraordinary steps to hire staff before the summer season.
Live dancers and other entertainment will be part of the job expo at Beau Rivage Resort & Casino on May 13.
Billed as “a job fair like no other,” it will be staged in the Magnolia Ballroom and provide a job showcase and on-the-spot job offers during two “showtimes,” from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 3-5 p.m.
VEHICLE FOR HIRE
Those who go to work at The Shrimp Basket in Gulfport could receive a hiring incentive and the chance to win a new vehicle.
Shrimp Basket is looking to fill 200 positions at its locations, and is offering a $500 hiring incentive, a $500 referral bonus and a $1.50 an hour summer retention bonus for back-of-house staff, in addition to regular hourly pay.
Current staff members and new hires will be entered to win a 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer SUV, valued at over $22,000. Employees get an entry for the drawing for every 30 days they are employed between May 1 and Aug. 10, and another entry for every new employee referral. The winner will be announced Sept. 13.
HIRING VIRTUAL AND IN PERSON
Several casinos have already held job fairs, and every casino in South Mississippi posts opening on their websites. But there are more than just hospitality and casino jobs open.
Some of the job fairs are:
- IP Casino in Biloxi is using a virtual job fair through May 14 to fill 56 available positions, such as cage cashiers, security officers, dealers, slot floor persons and others. This format lets applicants apply for available positions online.
- Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System’s virtual job fair is May 3-7 to fill positions at the organizations five sites, at the Biloxi VA Medical Center and in Alabama and Florida. Applicants can send their resume and cover letter to GulfCoastVHCSJobs@va.gov.
- The City of Pascagoula and Main Street Pascagoula teamed up to host a will host a Food Service Job Fair April 30.
- “Our restaurants dealt with a lot of hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic and now they are struggling to hire staff,” said Rebecca Davis, executive director of Main Street Pascagoula.
- A recruiter for Ingalls Shipbuilding says 40 slots are open beginning May 10 to train shipfitters. Classes will be held at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College campuses for six weeks, and those who successfully complete the course will be paid $20.30 per hour, plus a $1 shift differential. Contact email@example.com
MORE BUSINESS, HIGHER WAGES
A career fair Thursday at Shaggy’s added staff to cover the increase in traffic and revenue now that people are going out more, said Ron Ladner, owner of Shaggy’s restaurants in Biloxi, Gulfport and Pass Christian.
“We are fully staffed for a normal March to July,” he said, “but on any given day we can see revenue increases of 25-40%.”
He hasn’t had a problem finding staff since increasing pay last year at the start of the pandemic.
“Twelve months ago we mandated a $15 minimum wage for all full time Shaggy’s employees,” he said. The company also raised tipped employees from $2.13 per hour to an average of $7 to $8 per hour — and provided health, dental and vision insurance for all full-time employees.
“Our tipped employees are making $25 an hour and $1,000 a week for the full-timers,” he said. “We have set ourselves up to offer more of a career for our people, a home, in a culture of appreciation, and it’s paying off.”
WHY THE SHORTAGE?
Despite the many job openings, South Mississippi unemployment remains high after the coronavirus spike last spring — 6.3% for Harrison County, 6.7% in Jackson County and 6.9% in Hancock County.
Instead of having one of the top-10 lowest jobless rates in the state, as frequently happened before the pandemic, the Gulfport and Biloxi area now is ranked 32nd lowest in the state. Rankin County is the lowest at 4.1%.
Mississippi Department of Employment Security’s March report shows 13,440 people are unemployed in the six counties in South Mississippi.
The same type of staff shortages happened after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Unemployment was 14% on the Coast in May 2007 — a year and a half after Katrina. Business leaders went to Jackson to say they had jobs but no applicants, and to ask for the extended unemployment to end.
Under the American Rescue Plan Act, the federal government is providing an extra $300 in extended unemployment benefits on top of the state unemployment. That currently runs until Sept. 6 — all the way through the summer tourist season.
A March survey by the National Federation of Independent Business shows 42% of its members have job openings they couldn’t fill. Owners cited higher unemployment benefits as one factor, according to the Associated Press.
COULD STUDENTS SAVE SUMMER?
“We’re short-staffed at every location,” said Thomas Genin, who owns Marina Cantina in Gulport and several locations of The Blind Tiger that are open air, casual, family and waterfront restaurants, he said, where people like to work.
He gets hundreds of emails a week from people applying for a job, he said. The managers make the appointments with the applicants.
“They never show up,” he said, but use the contact that is required to keep collecting unemployment.https://61216cc37e1331e080d91a44256659ae.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
For those who are working, “There’s overtime now. There’s more tips,” he said. “We thank them very much.”
Genin said his hope is that college students will be looking for part-time work this summer. “If that doesn’t happen, we’re going to be in a bind,” he said.