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Restaurants struggle to hire amid 20-year high for job openings

"Help wanted" signs are posted at businesses from coast to coast, especially bars and restaurants as the U.S. emerges from COVID-19 shutdowns. 

Customers are starting to come back to Du-pars Restaurant and Bakery, but owner Frances Tario felt blindsided when her employees failed to return. She struggled to stay open during the pandemic, laying off 100 employees and closing one of her two Los Angeles locations. Now, because of being understaffed, employees are pulling double duty. 

"It's been difficult. And, you know, I'm grateful to them," Tario said. 

Tario is far from being the only business owner looking to hire. There are 8.1 million jobs available across the U.S. — a 20-year high. To return to the pre-pandemic economy, 800,000 people need to return to the workforce every month. 

"We have very generous unemployment right now, what that means is people have the ability to wait for the right job to come along," said University of California, Los Angeles, senior economist Leo Feler. 

At least 19 states have ended the extra $300 a week in unemployment benefits, which was part of pandemic relief. Still, the average restaurant server makes just $2.13 an hour, plus tips. It's not enough to cover child care or transportation or worth the exposure to COVID-19. 

"Men gained jobs. Women did not. Why would this be different between men and women? It's that women have this greater responsibility for child caring and for home-schooling so that inhibits them from being able to go out and get jobs," Feler said. 

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