The coronavirus pandemic arrived more than 15 months ago, changing many aspects of life. While many were forced to work from home, others lost their jobs and were left to rely on unemployment benefits from the federal or state government to provide assistance. With most businesses welcoming employees back in more normal settings now, the recent challenge has been a push to hire individuals, though many places are lacking enough skilled applicants.
"We're always hiring for drivers here," said Koren Brewer, a human relations specialist at Rollet Bros., in a May interview. "That's ongoing. We have three other positions available."
Those included lot technician, a service technician and a wash bay opening.
"The driver side has been a little tough," Brewer said. "I don't know if it's unemployment benefits or finding qualified drivers. The unemployment situation hasn't really affected us much. We were an essential business, we were running (routes) during pandemic."
Approximately 24 positions were open at Perry County Memorial Hospital in both clinical and non-clinical roles as of June 1, which is much larger than average, according to Angie Brewer, the hospital's director of human resources.
"The number of job applications is lower than normal in general for all roles," Brewer said. "There are few roles that are traditionally hard to fill, but the applicant pool is even more scarce for them right now. We are competing with other facilities for the same set of skills in many cases, which makes the market very competitive."
The state ending federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits, which went into affect June 12, should be a positive step, Brewer said.
"This change will be a welcomed help for all human resource professionals across all industries," Brewer said. "It will remove one of the barriers to potential employees applying for the open positions."
The COVID-19 pandemic changed many things with employment at the hospital, and it was a challenge, Brewer noted.
"We had additional roles to fill such as door screener or additional COVID-related roles, but we were able to find sufficient staff resource for non-clinical areas due to hiring students or people who were out of work for other reasons. More recently in 2021, we had the challenge of the lack of applicants to fill the roles.
Potential reasons for the smaller applicant pool are believed to be a result of the lack of childcare resources for staff, especially those working non-dayshift or weekends, and the unemployment incentives that cause some people to choose to stay home, according to Brewer.
In addition to a reduced number of applicants, the state is experiencing a shortage of LPN’s and RN’s which means "we don’t have enough licensed /active nurses to fill all the needs of the state and the retirement horizon for nurses is increasing as the baby boomers seek to retire."
Ashley Goodman, the general manager of Taco Bell, said the Perryville location offers on-spot interviews and is severely understaffed. Applicants are non-existent and they are hiring individuals on the spot.
The available positions include “anything, really, it’s across the board,” Goodman said.
“Those with the right skills can be trained for management (roles),” Goodman said.
The frachise is considerating advertising for its open positions, a practice that Goodman said doesn’t occur very often.
Victoria Jordan, the general manager of the Perryville Burger King, said the decision by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to cut the federal pandemic benefits, effective June 12 could lead to more interest in individuals seeking part-time employment.
“I’m seeing more applicants now,” Jordan said.
Jordan isn’t sure if it will lead to a larger trend of more hiring, though.
“Only time will tell with that,” she said.
The outdoor sign in front of the fast food restaurant seeks applicants and encourages them to “apply today” and those interested can do so in person or online. Jordan said "the company schedules interviews as we get applicants.”
Burger King opened its dining room earlier this spring, the last full weekend of March. However, it was forced to close the lobby in May.
The fast food eatery has been forced to reduce its hours of operation. It is now open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Normal hours would be 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the weekends.
A lack of both crew members and management led to the reduction, according to Jordan.
Jordan said the challenge of employing people is not specific to this part of the country.
“Through our whole company, everyone is having difficulty hiring,” she said.
Amanda Myers, the general manager of the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Perryville, said she has been getting one applicant every two or three weeks. Individuals are hired, then they don’t show up for work or quit.
KFC is daily open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with drive-through service only, with the morning shifts beginning at about 8 a.m. and the evening shifts lasting until about 10:30 p.m. With pay starting at $10.35 per hour, a minimum of three people are needed per shift and for those seeking employment, both part-time and full-time is available, essentially “whatever they’re wanting,” Myers said.
Generally, she said full-time is considered 30 hours or more. Part-time workers get 20 to 25 hours per week, though they “have the ability to give people full-time hours.”