Lenoir County, Kinston businesses are recruiting
As the New Year begins, labor shortages, retention, COVID-19 issues and finding the right people for the Kinston and Lenoir Counties job are still big challenges.
City and county jobs, as well as local service jobs, are still the professions that have been hard to fill last year, with the delta variant being at the end of July and according to the U.S. office of Lenoir County, unemployment is due to the pandemic, according to the U.S. office of Labor Statistics 5.6% as of October 2021 – relatively low compared to the state’s highest rate, which is 10.5% in Scotland, where Laurinburg, the county seat, is located.
Labor shortages are affecting the county’s economy
The shortage has impacted Kinston’s economy and the city is struggling to fill much-needed jobs like fire, police, water, and road and environmental services, according to Rhonda Barwick, Kinston’s interim city manager.
âThe number of applications for vacant positions has fallen dramatically. After the holidays, we experience an increase in COVID symptoms that affects the number of employees on my staff on any given day. It will be difficult to meet customer requests as promptly as we would like. Employees work longer hours and pull extra shifts to cover emergencies, but to maintain a safe and healthy workforce this needs to be limited, “Barwick said.
Related:Iconic Kinston restaurants that are forced to reduce their hours due to labor shortages
She said the hiring landscape in the city has left employers with hiring concerns, be it job vacancies or absences from COVID logs. She also said it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Leisure Department to fill part-time positions, which are key in keeping the centers open. The Lovit Hines Community Center is currently closed and a former employee has taken a full-time position. This department is currently in talks with candidates and will reopen the center if a person is hired.
âWhen you travel around town, you will see a lot of shops with signs saying ‘We are hiring’ on their doors. Some companies have adjusted their hours of operation to make sure they can serve their customers, âshe said. She added that local businesses had to change the way they do business – offer online ordering, pickup and curb delivery.
Changing attitudes towards work in a pandemic
The federal pandemic unemployment benefits ended at the beginning of September. Many believed this could spark an onslaught of people trying to get back to work. Barwick said on the spot that she has watched workers change their attitudes and approaches about their jobs, jobs and retirement amid the pandemic.
âI think COVID made people rethink the way they work. Lots of people are looking for a career at home. Others may have used the curfew to learn a new job and change jobs. We have also seen an increase in retirements in the city. HR experts expected the baby boomers to retire in the next two to three years, but it appears the pandemic has led some to opt for earlier retirement, âBarwick said.
Barwick said Kinston City Council has followed all state orders related to recovering from COVID-19 but has not placed additional restrictions on businesses in the city. She also said the council worked to fund ongoing vaccinations and testing and held several food distribution events to keep citizens available for work and health during the height of the pandemic.
“The COVID funding was also used to provide emergency relief to customers struggling during the shutdown,” Barwick said.
There are currently 23 county job openings in Lenoir County, according to the Human Resources website, and many are the same as the jobs the City of Kinston is struggling to fill. According to Lashanda Hall, director, that was roughly the average number her office sees and said detention positions are the most difficult to fill or keep. However, she said that Lenoir County had been consistent in all of its recruiting efforts when asked if it looked like the problem was getting worse.
âAs everywhere, there are difficulties with recruiting. It is not a Lenoir County problem, it is a national problem. We get several applications a day. Right now we have a major shortage in our detention center, but we’re almost full in other areas, âHall said.
It was a challenge to find the right people with the appropriate experience for the respective job classification during the âgreat resignationâ.
Some of Kinston’s local businesses have been hit hard by the labor shortage. The Free Press spoke to Steve Lovick, owner of Lovick’s coffee shop, and Joe Hargitt of Kings Restaurant in early June about their labor shortage issues. When asked about an update, both owners said they wouldn’t see any big improvements in the new year.
Hargitt said his latest problem was his workers were walking with COVID but said it wasn’t as bad as it was at Delta.
âMy biggest problem right now is dishwashers – the low end of the food chain in the hospitality industry, but we’re still paying the guys $ 10-12 an hour. You still get paid what the people on the line get, âhe said.
A new incentive for people to stay with Kings is that Hargitt is offering all employees one free meal per day. He said that if there are more than 100 employees that will limit his profits a little, but he has offered that he doesn’t have many options. He said that despite the labor problems, business is booming.
Steve Lovick is in the same boat in many ways. In June last year it no longer had to be open on Mondays. He said he works 60 hours a week and the availability of the employee changes day by day depending on the employee’s family responsibilities. His dishwashers make about as much as Hargitt’s, with waiters sometimes taking home $ 800 a week.
âI had a pretty good workforce today, but everyone worked. I mean, I am a professional person who usually work three days a week, they are currently working every day. And I know they can’t, âLovick said. He has to stand behind the grill most days because he hasn’t had a grill chef for nine months.
He said he believed the situation had worsened since June because people hadn’t even applied for jobs in his restaurant. He said he doesn’t really have any worker incentives / incentives but said he is now offering more money.
Looking ahead to 2022, Lovick said he hoped people will choose to return to work like they did before COVID-19.
âI don’t know what happened to America. This is not the way America was designed to function, âhe said.