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Brooklyn businesses can’t find workers despite record unemployment

Despite New York unemployment numbers running at over 12 percent, some city businesses are reporting a shortage of workers.

A new survey by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce found that 64 percent of small business in the borough are experiencing difficulties filling available positions despite a major push by the city to reopen.

Over 40 percent of the 200 respondents cited enhanced jobless benefits that were extended through September as a significant factor, including a government-funded $300 weekly supplement, which pays more than most minimum wage jobs.

Several businesses also indicated employees reported access to childcare issues for returning to work.


“While there are a lot of reasons to be excited about the recovery and the future of small businesses in our borough, the reality is significant hiring issues exist right now that we need to address,” said Randy Peers, President and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

“Sufficient staffing and operating issues could slow our recovery and leave many small businesses that we know suffered during pandemic-induced restrictions at continued risk for their long-term viability.”

Among other reasons that are compounding the problem, according to the survey:

41percent said they couldn’t provide adequate hours;

28 percent said employees had moved on to other jobs;

12 percent said employees had workplace safety concerns;

7 percent lost contact with former employees; and

5 percent cited employee health issues.

 This is despite 29 percent of businesses altering pre-covid recruitment strategies for attracting employees, including offering more flexible and remote work hours, improved benefits and pay and improved safety measures.

The survey’s findings mirrored many of the issues in the federal labor department’s April jobs report, which reflected an increase in the unemployment rate and hiring figures that were far below the estimates of many economists.

One optimistic statistic in the Chamber’s results was almost 60 percent of respondents believe they will add some additional staff in the next 12 months, and 13 percent will hire many new employees, a sign of confidence in the city’s recovery that is bolstered by only a handful of the 202 businesses that answered indicating they intend to reduce their headcounts.

Cooks and wait staff accounted for the largest number of jobs hired for, which should continue as restrictions on indoor dining are relaxed, with the increase to 75 percent capacity that started  on May 7.

Peers concluded “Brooklyn remains a great place to open and run a business and the future continues to be bright. But we need to help the entrepreneurs that put so much of their sweat into building successful ventures before the pandemic and are now wondering what their futures hold and how they will be able to operate at full strength.”

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