Restaurant worker shortage hits Milwaukee ahead of June 1 COVID restriction rollback

NOW: Restaurant worker shortage hits Milwaukee ahead of June 1 COVID restriction rollback

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Aspiring service industry workers met employers with growing payrolls during an east side Milwaukee job fair for 20 businesses Friday, May 21.

“I didn’t even understand, or even know that security was that in demand right now,” security applicant Cymon Wash said.

Many bar and restaurant jobs are in demand as the economy opens up.

“We’ve had opening up fairly quickly, but there hasn’t been the staff to be able to fully man them because we’ve been shut down for so long and had such reduced capacities, they couldn’t handle having a large staff during those times,” Brady Street Business Improvement District Director Rachel Taylor said.

Local business groups believe the shortage is caused by the rapid increase in need  workers finding other jobs and boosted unemployment paying more than wages. Some argue the wages are not high enough. Others argue the unemployment benefits are too high.

Local business groups believe tips can soon help restaurant worker earnings pass unemployment.

“You have more people buying more things, tipping more," East Side and Downer Avenue Business Improvement District Director Liz Brodek said. "You’re going to see that balance kind of redistribute between unemployment and the incentive to come out and work.”

State unemployment is at one third of it’s rate this time last year.

The department of workforce development says Wisconsin is still down 120,000 jobs from when the pandemic began.

“That’s more than halfway," Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Chief Economist Dennis Winters said. "We lost more than 400,000 jobs in a couple of months a year ago, so now we’re back most of the way.”

The job fair lasted from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Casablanca on Brady Street Friday. There will be a second job fair during the same timeframe Saturday, May 22. 

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