Many Brooklyn small businesses say some employees aren’t returning to work

May 12, 2021 Editorial Staff
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As New York’s small businesses prepare for the city’s reopening, many are finding that employees aren’t returning to work for a variety of reasons, according to a recent survey by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

According to the survey of more than 200 small businesses, 64 percent expressed they were experiencing difficulties filling available positions.

Some 42 percent of respondents cited enhanced jobless benefits that were extended through September as a significant factor, including a government-funded $300 weekly supplement that pays more than most minimum-wage jobs, the Chamber reported.

Several businesses also indicated employees reported access to child care as an issue complicating returning to work for some.

Other reasons that those surveyed say are compounding the problem include:
41 percent said they couldn’t provide adequate hours;
28 percent said employees had moved on to other jobs;
12 percent said employees had workplace safety concerns;
7 percent lost contact with former employees; and
5 percent cited employee health issues.

This is despite the fact that 29 percent of businesses altered pre-COVID recruitment strategies for attracting employees, including offering more flexible and remote work hours, improved benefits and pay and improved safety measures, the Chamber said.

Wine salesman Jeff Hansen, left, replaces the cork on a bottle of wine after pouring samples for Barbès retail manager Hanna Cheek, center, and owner Olivier Conan at the popular music venue and bar Conan converted to a bottle shop during the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. AP Photo/Kathy Willens

The survey’s findings mirrored many of the issues in the federal labor department’s April jobs report, which reflected an increase in the unemployment rate and hiring figures that were far below the estimates of many economists.

“While there are a lot of reasons to be excited about the recovery and the future of small businesses in our borough, the reality is significant hiring issues exist right now that we need to address,” said Randy Peers, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.–>

“Sufficient staffing and operating issues could slow our recovery and leave many small businesses that we know suffered during pandemic-induced restrictions at continued risk for their long-term viability,” he added.

One optimistic statistic in the Chamber’s results was that almost 60 percent of all respondents believe they will add some additional staff in the next 12 months.

In addition, 13 percent of those responding said they will hire many new employees, a sign of confidence in the city’s recovery that is bolstered by the fact that only a handful of the 202 businesses said they intend to reduce their staff.

Cooks and wait staff accounted for the largest number of jobs hired. This should continue as restrictions on indoor dining are gradually relaxed, starting with the recent increase to 75 percent capacity, according to the Chamber.

Peers concluded, “Brooklyn remains a great place to open and run a business and the future continues to be bright. But we need to help the entrepreneurs that put so much of their sweat into building successful ventures before the pandemic and are now wondering what their futures hold and how they will be able to operate at full strength.”

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