Jacksonville area businesses face hiring challenge more than a year after start of COVID-19 pandemic

Jacksonville, FL. — Operating during a pandemic has been a time like no other for our local businesses. But—as we inch closer to normal, they are facing a new challenge: hiring.

Action News Jax Courtney Cole went to Jacksonville Beach to talk to owner Ed Malin about his experience managing his business during the pandemic. He told Cole when the pandemic first started, the main issue was figuring out how to remain open, safely.

Now that’s he’s got a handle on that, he said his biggest issue is making sure they’ve enough staff to serve new and faithful customers.

“As time’s gone on, it’s gotten better. It’s still tough now. Not so much with the pandemic itself, but employment,” Malin explained.

He is the owner of Angie’s Subs on Beach Boulevard as well as Angie’s Grom on 3rd Street South.

“I am blessed right now with a great crew that shows up every day and they have a great work ethic and they’re eager to be a part of a team,” Malin said.

Even as a staple in the community, where many entry-level employees are hired, the local business owner said this is the hardest it’s been for him to find employees in his 20 years.

“We do get some of that— where we hire somebody, they show up for one day, they don’t ever come back. I think a lot of that has to do with unemployment benefits. So there’s a struggle there and I talked to every restaurant owner at the beach and we’re all having the same issues,” Malin told Action News Jax.

According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity:

  • In February, there were 474,000 jobless Floridians out of a labor force of 10,124,000. That comes out 4.7% that were unemployed Statewide.
  • That’s in comparison to Duval County where 4.2% of the 490,191 people were unemployed.

“We spend about 80-100 dollars a week advertising in different places trying to find employees. In the past few weeks there has been an uptick. We’ve gotten some great responses. I reached out to some of the local churches. They reached out to their youth groups. So we’ve got some great employees there,” Malin said.

When Cole asked him what he thinks can be done to make things better he said he believes steps should be taken to incentivize being a productive member of society.

As more people get vaccinated and become open to applying for employment and education opportunities, a lawmaker in Tallahassee is working to make sure you have easy access to those opportunities.

While the hospitality industry is looking for people to hire, if that isn’t necessarily your gig, State Representative Clay Yarborough has been working on House Bill 1507. He said it will re-vamp Florida’s Workforce Development System.

“How can we make sure that we are truly helping the consumer, which is that job seeker—that worker, that student that may be coming out of a technical school or high school, or what have you, to not only get employment, but maintain their employment,” Yarborough said.

He represents part of Duval County and told Cole this legislation he’s sponsoring is about helping people get employment but also helping them to maintain it.

“If you think of any number of the technical schools that we have, you can say Tulsa Welding School, or pick any other program out there that’s kind of a standalone, technical school. Or you could have any number of programs at our Florida college system institutions that are prepping the attendees and participants for the workforce. We have a lot of ‘em out there. And so what we want to do is hone in on which ones are providing those potential workers or current workers— that are trying to train for something else—which one is really giving them the best value for their investment,” Yarborough explained to Action News Jax.

Ultimately, his bill would require the Department of Economic Opportunity, Department of Education and Department of Children and Families to collaborate on a single system that will provide workforce and education systems throughout the state.

That next update from the Department of Economic Opportunity comes out Friday, April 16th

If the bill gets passed, it would ultimately go into effect on July 1, 2021.