SAN ANTONIO – When the Texas economy reopened in March, people flooded businesses of all kinds. However, more than a month later, many local companies still can not operate at total capacity because they cannot find enough employees to hire.
“For a business owner, that’s the hardest thing to deal with, is when a customer tells you, ‘There’s an open table there, why can’t you sit us there?’ And you’ve got to explain to them you don’t have enough staff,” said Rick Lopez, vice president of operations at Henry’s Puffy Tacos.
Lopez said there have been lines out the door, and he has event had to decline large parties since the state reopened.
“We’ve even called past employees, but no one’s really wanting to come to work,” he said.
Lopez said many people he spoke with are choosing to stay on unemployment.
“I think the state needed to do it in sync with the unemployment part, like maybe give them an incentive to come back to work,” he said.
The business’ issue is no secret. There is a placard that reads ‘We’re Hiring’ with a list of all the staff positions they desperately need on every single table.
“I need double of everything. I really need wait staff and kitchen staff the most. I’m actually helping in the kitchen at times,” Lopez said.
Industries across the board are facing the same problem.
“We literally went from one week being 50% open to another week being 100 percent open, so there was really no ramp-up time. There was not a lot of time for businesses to prepare and the population to properly respond,” said Adrian Lopez, CEO of Workforce Solutions Alamo.
Workforce Solutions Alamo covers a 13-county region and helps people find work and career training.
In November, Texas reinstated a mandate that unemployment recipients have to prove they’re searching for jobs. The number of job searches each person must show has to do with the working conditions in their county and is set by one of 28 workforce boards in the state.
The Texas Workforce Commission website has a chart showing the minimum job searches required in each county. Bexar County is listed as needing at least three job searches per week.
“For those who don’t have access to a computer or devices, we have our centers open, and they can utilize them,” Adrian Lopez said.
The Workforce Solutions Alamo CEO said he is keeping an eye on guidelines from state and local governments to see if those numbers are allowed to rise. However, he said a lot of the issue is trust from the workforce.
“For the 13 county region, we have about 375,000 people who filed for unemployment. Those are individuals. When we factor in individuals who filed multiple times during the last 12 or 13 months, it goes to 600,000,” Adrian Lopez said. “So what that number does show is people were laid off or furloughed or had their hours reduced, filed for unemployment. Then, they eventually went back to full-time employment, to eventually have to go back and file again sometime later.”
Adrian Lopez offered some positivity for the current unemployment recipients who have been laid off multiple times and are afraid to step back out in the workforce.
“We’re telling them there’s thousands of jobs,” he said.
The area workforce CEO said he is continuing that positive outlook for the future of the 13-county region he serves.
“This is all -- it’s just the nature of what we’re going through at the moment. Eventually, I think we’ll get out of this,” Adrian Lopez said.
Rick Lopez can only hope he’s right.
“We just need hands. Even if it’s part-time, we’ll take you. Even if you have no experience, we’ll train you. You can start today,” he said.
To help employers with the demand, Workforce Solutions Alamo is partnering with local chambers of commerce to hold two upcoming job fairs.
There will be a virtual job fair on May 4 and an in-person job fair on May 5. Both will go from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For more information, visit their website or call 210-224-HELP (4357).