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Amid Staff Shortage In Colorado Hospitality And Leisure Industry, Local Economists Weigh In On Reasons Why, And How Long It Will Last

(CBS4) - A nationwide labor shortage - mainly concentrated in the hospitality and leisure industry - continues to hurt local Colorado businesses. Elitch Gardens canceled its 4th of July fireworks show due to low staffing, and downtown Denver restaurants are concerned about the upcoming MLB All-Star Game, because they are so short-staffed.

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"The restaurant scene in Colorado is struggling," said Denise Mickelsen with the Colorado Restaurant Association. "People are vaccinated, you know restrictions are gone and everyone is excited to get back out to restaurants and summer patios, however, the restaurants just simply do not have enough staff to give and provide the highest quality that they would want."

So, what's the cause for the shortage? CU Denver Assistant Professor of Economics Chloe East says lack of childcare is likely one reason.

"Limited childcare access is harmful for parents and particularly for mothers with young preschool-age kids," East said. "If we were to reopen childcare more than we have, I would expect to see an increase in work effort among parents, but again especially mothers."

Local economists also believe some people still have COVID-19 health concerns, with the Delta variant increasing, and not everyone getting vaccinated.

East says while there has been talk about unemployment benefits expansions being a reason, preliminary evidence shows that is likely not a factor.

"What we see from the preliminary evidence suggests that job search effort has actually not increased in the states where they cut back UI expansions," East said.

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Metropolitan State University Denver Economics Professor Alexandre Padilla agrees.

"That may apply for a small percentage of people, some people might be very comfortable with their unemployment benefits, but the reality is that the jobs that may have existed before the pandemic are no longer there," Padilla said.

Padilla says there has been a cultural shift in what workers demand of their employers - more pay and better working conditions - and employees aren't as willing to just take anything.

"Clearly, there's a huge discussion about the disparity between CEOs and top management, who make billions of dollars, and people who make $15 an hour who are exposed to risks," Padilla said.

East says the country is expected to bounce back from the effects of the pandemic faster than it did from the Great Recession in 2008.

She says the Great Recession lasted 18 months, but it took six years for the country to get back to the number of jobs as before the recession.

In the meantime, if you're looking for work, you can check out the Colorado Restaurant Association's job board here:

"I have to say, I worked in restaurants my whole life, and there has never been a better time to get into the industry," Mickelsen said. "The pay is higher than ever, there are more benefit packages than ever before."

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For more job opportunities, click here:

Here are two grant opportunities from the CDLE:

  • COResponds is designed to help workers who are temporarily or permanently laid off due to the pandemic, including dislocated workers and long-term unemployed workers. The grant also serves people who are self-employed but have become unemployed or underemployed as a result of the pandemic.
  • RecoverCO helps Coloradans who are unemployed or underemployed as a result of the pandemic by providing comprehensive career and training services for a rapid return to work and supportive services to ease financial burdens during job search and training.
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