PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Nate Tilden owns several restaurants in Portland, including Bar Casa Vale. For now, they’re doing outdoor dining but are getting ready to open up indoors in the next few weeks.
But he said finding people to work as line cooks, kitchen management, bartenders and servers has been challenging. He told KOIN 6 News he’s heard the same thing from other restaurant owners.
“It’s been hard. If you were closed for a while as a business and now you’re trying to kind of ramp it back up, you don’t just hit a switch and make these things go back to the way they were before,” Tilden said. “Frankly, we’re not seeing the number of people coming back to the service industry that we had before the pandemic.”
The Oregon Employment Department‘s state employment economist said data shows about 12,000 workers left the food service and accommodation industry for other jobs at the end of 2020. But that’s not the only reason it’s tough to find workers.
It’s a combination of factors, officials said, like a lack of childcare as two-thirds of Oregon schools are still doing either full or partial remote learning. Some are making more on unemployment than if they went back to work. And others are still concerned about getting COVID.
“Asking someone to come back to a job that pays them decently well, but they’re not getting wealthy by any means, and potentially contract the virus and take it home to their grandmother and grandfather, that’s a hard pill to swallow,” Tilden said.
During the pandemic, the OED suspended the requirement that people need to be looking for work to get benefits. But that’s changing. However, it’s still too early to see if that will impact people going back to work.