301.519.9237 exdirector@nesaus.org

6.25.21 – WLOX — OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss.

Businesses everywhere have struggled to succeed over the last year as they faced closures and restrictions from the pandemic. Now, everything in South Mississippi is back open but businesses are still trying to overcome staffing issues that have been plaguing them for months.

Many businesses are still nowhere close to being fully staffed, especially those in the food and beverage industry, which has been hit the hardest by the staffing concerns.

”We shut down for about a month,” said Sean Searcy, the general manager at New York Pizza in Ocean Springs. “When we re-opened, we tried to get some people to come back to work. They were reluctant, I guess, due to the high payout for unemployment.”

Even though Mississippi opted out of the federal unemployment benefits earlier this month, businesses have still been hard-pressed to find good help.

The help many employers are finding are coming from teenagers and young adults who have less experience.

The Crawfish House in downtown Ocean Springs is one of several businesses who closed last year due to the pandemic. The popular seafood spot reopened at the beginning of this year but has recently had to limit their hours due to staffing.

“It has been very difficult for at least the last 45 to 60 days, to the extent that we had to alter our hours from six days a week to four,” said Bill Roberts, who owns the Crawfish House. “As far as hiring goes, we aren’t really finding any applicants that want to work.”

Roberts said it was a “perfect storm” of things that has made it difficult for small businesses like his to hire and keep employees.

”The spring was particularly bad when we had what I called the perfect storm,” said Roberts. “We had stimulus checks that went in and went out. We had unemployment income that was out there, and then you had income tax money. That all hit sort of along the same time.”

While the food and beverage industry has been particularly impacted, small businesses of all kinds are feeling the impacts of the staffing shortage. At Charisma, a women’s clothing boutique in downtown Ocean Springs, the owner has been diligent in trying to hire new employees.

“I have posted on social media. I have told people in the store,” said Charisma’s owner Brandin Brosh.“Just not a lot of people are looking for jobs, but I did post last week and I have seen a few people apply. I have got some resumes in.”

The federal unemployment ended in Mississippi on June 12. Business owners are hoping that they will start to see more people in need of a job as the summer goes on.

Copyright 2021 WLOX. All rights reserved.