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'The moms and pops are struggling' | Employers looking to hire during national labor shortage

In New Orleans, there are about 27,000 available jobs.

As we get closer to the start of summer, many businesses in the metro area are scrambling to hire workers for seasonal jobs. Their search for workers is complicated by a nationwide labor shortage. 

It’s playing out at United Apparel Liquidators in Metairie. When you have only a handful of workers, you end up doing some of the heavy lifting yourself. That was the case for Allison Zerangue on Wednesday. She’s the manager at the apparel store and was unloading a large set of boxes that were delivered to the store. Zerangue is looking to hire just a few new employees.

“If I can get two part-timers and a full-timer, something like that, that would be my ultimate wish list. It’s not like I’m asking for 50 people. I’m just looking for a few people, but people who want to come to work, people with a good attitude,” Zerangue said.

At this point, a good attitude would be Lagniappe. Many businesses are simply looking to fill openings. In New Orleans, there are about 27,000 available jobs. The bulk of those jobs are in tourism and hospitality. 

In Jefferson Parish, several thousand jobs are open.

“Just as we’re seeing across the region we are definitely experiencing a labor shortage in Jefferson Parish as well,” said Kelsey Scram, Director of Marketing and Innovation with the Jefferson Economic Development Commission.

Scram said the labor shortage is squeezing the retail and service sectors in Jefferson Parish. For businesses like United Apparel Liquidators which has a small staff, the economy can be more acute.

“We’re really seeing the moms and pops are the ones that are struggling. They are having to find different ways to be competitive with some of the larger big-box employers,” Scram said.

Reviving the labor market from the pandemic has been complicated and political. Some blame enhanced unemployment benefits from the federal government for keeping hourly workers at home. On the other side, advocates for essential employees cite concerns about workplace exposure to COVID and a lack of childcare as reasons why some workers have yet to return to the workforce.

“I completely understand it. I’m a single lady with bills to pay. I could only imagine if I had kids. I think it would be a lot harder for me to make that decision to come back to work, especially if I didn’t have someone else helping me out,” Zerangue said.

Zerangue did have one applicant to interview Wednesday. Before she could get to that, she and the only other worker on staff had to finish unloading all boxes that had been delivered.

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