Labor shortage helps students find jobs

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Abhigna Koochana

A customer walks into Lotte, a grocery store currently hiring for all positions.

Abhigna Koochana, Staff Writer

Forty-seven million workers quit their jobs nationwide in 2021, according to The US Chamber of Commerce, as people seek more flexibility, higher pay and a better work environment, there is a decrease in employment in fields such as retail and food. 

In Virginia, according to the Virginia Employment Commission, the unemployment rate is 2.7% as of July. Even though the unemployment rate is declining, the number of people working or actively looking for work is not increasing fast enough, only increasing by 1% from 2020. As a result, many businesses in the hospitality industry are seeing lower employment with higher production costs, affecting the operating hours and expansion of the businesses.

“I work at Milwaukee Frozen Custard,” junior Anushka Padyal said. “It’s a small store so my manager doesn’t have a lot of workers. Because of that, I work a lot of shifts, but it’s a fun place to work and the pay is good.”

According to The US Chamber of Commerce, jobs with lower compensation and that require in-person attendance have a difficult time hiring and keeping workers. The hospitality industry has above a 5.4% quit rate, and the retail industry below that at 4%. Additionally, CNBC reports that the food industry is down 6.1% of employees since pre-pandemic. The shorter staff results in longer wait times, leading to customer dissatisfaction, lower tips and a lesser chance of customers coming back. 

“I work at Marshalls,” junior Thea Brown Hargrove said. “It is currently hiring. My coworkers are closer to my age, so the shifts are really flexible. I work three days a week and my manager said I’m allowed to take my hours back if it’s too much.”

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the pandemic-induced labor shortage increased the hiring of teenage workers. In May 2021, the amount of teen workers rose 37%, the highest increase since the Great Recession in 2008. As the pandemic lingers, CNBC reports, employers are more willing to hire inexperienced workers and in addition, offer greater flexibility, higher pay and additional perks as incentives. 

“I work at Mod Pizza,” senior Jewelle Sanchez said. “Compared to the beginning of the year when I first started working, I have fewer coworkers. A lot of them were college students, so they left over the summer. Now, many of my coworkers are high schoolers.”

Students have more freedom and opportunities when it comes to finding jobs, the College of Social Sciences and Humanities reports. They can negotiate for more time off and increased responsibility even if it’s their first job.

“I think teens are taking the place of people who have moved on to more stable jobs.””

— junior Thea Brown Hargrove

In the aftermath of the pandemic virtual opportunities increased and teens have more reach on where they apply. 

“I don’t think teens worked as much [before] but now I feel like a lot of people I know have some kind of job,” Brown Hargrove said. “I think teens are taking the place of people who have moved on to more stable jobs that are online, rather than retail or food.”