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Local Restaurant Still Seeking Workers As Unemployment Claims Drop Below 300k

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - More money hits some parents' bank accounts this Friday and our country just reached a pandemic-era low for initial unemployment claims, but still "help wanted" signs hang across our area.

When pandemic unemployment benefits expired in September, many employers hoped they'd see a change. KDKA's Meghan Schiller stopped by Ciccanti's Ristorante along Rt. 51 and learned the owner is seeing anything but change.

Frank Ciccanti's been serving up Italian cuisine since the 70s.

"Rack of lamb, everybody loves it because they haven't tasted rack of lamb like mine anywhere, beautiful veal chops, same thing," he said.

But in all his years, Ciccanti has never posted so many signs. He's dealing with no-shows and some people showing up then leaving.

"I had three waitresses apply and never showed up," said Ciccanti.

KDKA's Meghan Schiller asked: "Did one guy show and leave?"

"Worked one hour," said Ciccanti. "And he disappeared. Somebody told me he went out the door."

Ciccanti's kitchen cooks everything fresh, and that takes time. Now he's finding himself forced to turn hungry customers away.

"I have a lot of loyal customers and that's why I'm successful, but on weekends I probably turn down 30 to 40 customers because I have no help in the kitchen. I don't want them sitting all night without eating," he said.

Ciccanti is not alone in his struggle, it's still common across small businesses in our area. But for the first time since the pandemic began, the number of Americans filing initial unemployment claims dropped below 300,000.

"I don't understand why people don't want to work," said customer Jim Bath. "I can't get this into my head, I can't understand it."

Loyal customers Jim and Janet Bath hope Ciccanti pulls through.

"These people out there that don't have jobs, it's like -- go out and find a job and work," said Janet.

There's hope in people like Lori Sharp. She's on day two as Ciccanti's newest employee.

"My kids are in school now so I'm taking lunches and it gives me something to do for a few hours and I get to come down and help out," said Sharp.

Ciccanti knows with another round of child tax credit payments hitting bank accounts Friday, he might still face a wait. He tells KDKA he's looking for hard-working, honest employees.

"I'm looking for it every day. I'm praying every day someone shows up, someone reliable," he said.

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