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'We Just Need More People': Restaurant Owners Struggling To Find Staff As Former Employees Collect Unemployment

BOSTON (CBS) - Unemployment claims in Massachusetts were down 15,000 last week for a total of roughly 13,000 jobless claims.

But those unemployed numbers are creating a bit of a problem for restaurants that are slowly returning to normal. With fewer people looking for work, owners are afraid they may have trouble hiring staff to serve customers.

"We just need more people to really help us to give the service we intend to give," said chef Chris Coombs of Boston Urban Hospitality.

Coombs says patrons are eager to dine out again. The problem now is he doesn't have enough people to serve them.

"The restaurant industry has been so inconsistent for them over the last 12 months that it's just easier for them to stay home and collect unemployment," said Coombs.

The latest national data shows people in Massachusetts are gradually coming off unemployment benefits.

"It's a huge risk," said Club Promoter Leo Haskell, who was a nightlife promoter before COVID-19 shut the industry down and put him out out of work. Haskell explains why he and so many others are reluctant to switch careers.

"That anxiety factor of what if getting off unemployment to getting to a job to make less money than you were. For people who can't afford it, it's a huge risk and could potentially really hurt them financially," Haskell said.

It's even harder for specialized industries to fill positions. Michael Plump, owner of Elements Massage Stoneham, says jobs that pre-pandemic would take days to fill are sitting stagnant for months.

"Between the stimulus and unemployment, it's hard to incentivize people." said Plump.

It appears what the workforce is looking for the most is consistency.

"If you're getting $750 a week from the state plus $300 from the federal government, you can plan and budget your life accordingly based on those numbers," said Coombs. "Coming back into a restaurant as a server or a cook, it comes with great risk."

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