Roanoke businesses continue to deal with labor shortage amid pandemic

Roanoke Valley News

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Some businesses are still struggling to find workers, which is a challenge they’ve been dealing with throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Now, they are hoping the end of several federal pandemic unemployment benefits will create a spike in job applications.

“Currently, we probably need anywhere between six to eight people at Scratch Biscuit Company,” said Nathan Webster, the owner of Scratch Biscuit Company, Village Grill, and PB’s Po ‘Boys. “The Village Grill, we probably need anywhere between 10 to 12.”

It’s the same story for Ernie’s on the Market.

“There’s a sign in every window, help needed, help needed,” said co-owner of Ernie’s on the Market, Bill Kopcial.

The two business owners say their loyal workers are helping keep their restaurants afloat, but it comes with much stress.

“I’ve kind of looked at it as it’s just one of the reasons I love business. It’s just another challenge to try to figure out how to survive the current situation we’re in,” Webster said.

Over the weekend, several extra federal pandemic unemployment benefits came to an end. Now, businesses are hoping it brings an end to their staffing struggles.

“Some of these people will have to get off their lazy butts because they’re not drawing any money. They’re going to have to work to eat,” Kopcial said.

However, Old Dominion University economist Bob McNab says it’s “doubtful.”

“The real problem is people leaving the labor force. If you look where we started in the pandemic, there are less people looking for work,” said McNab. “In other words, there are just not enough unemployed people to fix the labor problems in the region.”

Webster says he thinks only time can fix the struggles of the current labor market.

“I think it’s just going to take time for everything to normalize for everybody,” said Webster.

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