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Employers desperate to hire during Labor Day labor shortage

From restaurants to health care, businesses are having a difficult time finding workers.

INDIANAPOLIS — Federal pandemic unemployment benefits expired Sept. 5. 

That includes the extra $300 a month many people have received in unemployment checks. That might prompt more people to apply for jobs now.

On Labor Day, many employers are desperate for people willing to work during a labor shortage.   

The doors were locked at the Wendy's restaurant on 22nd and Meridian streets. All the available staff is working the drive-thru.   

"Why is your dining room closed?” I asked as I placed my order. 

“We don't have enough employees," the drive-thru worker replied.

The shortage of workers has forced changes to hours and operations at many restaurants. 

The cashier at Wendy’s noticed my 13News vehicle and pleaded with me to report on the need for help. 

“We need it bad. Can you put it on-air for us? We are all the way short on staff very bad. We don't have enough people. Put it on the air for us. 22nd and Meridian. We’re hiring like crazy,” they said. 

Credit: WTHR
A worker at Wendy's at 22nd and Meridian streets told 13News their dining room was closed due to a lack of workers.

Plenty of vehicles came through Crew Car Wash on Labor Day, including my news vehicle. But not enough workers are joining Crew.

"The labor market is quite difficult right now,” said Crew Car Wash General Manager Will Tolbert. “We have very few candidates coming through. When we do get them, we try to capitalize on them as soon as possible so we don't lose them to anybody else.”  

Crew's starting wage just went up to a minimum of $12 an hour, possibly up to $16. But the incentives are not driving job applicants.     

“We're pretty desperate right now,” said Tolbert. “A lot of our locations are very short-staffed. So, we've got people working a lot of overtime and putting in a lot of work to keep the operation going."

The signs at Crew promote the money workers can make and job benefits more than deals for customers.

Credit: WTHR
Crew Car Wash has more signs advertising employee benefits than customer deals.

"We want to give you skills that you can take outside of Crew,” said Tolbert. “I want it to be like the Harvard of first jobs. You might not be here forever. You might not make it a career. But you're definitely going to learn something and you're definitely going to be able to take those skills wherever you go."

The signs are everywhere. Almost every business is hiring. The health care industry is losing workers in the pandemic and crying "help wanted."

"It's very dry and ultra-competitive,” said Marc Hackett, CEO of Jane Pauley Community Health Centers. “We work with other hospital networks too, and they all have a plethora of open positions as well. We're having to entice that with sign-on bonuses for even front office staff as well as medical assistants. And we do offer our current employees a bonus if they were to refer somebody in." 

Filling positions in the health care industry can be particularly difficult with the ongoing obstacles of the pandemic.

"You're a lot more at risk with having to get the vaccine and being around sick patients, and so nurses are choosing to go to different professions,” said Hackett. “So, we're having a challenge with that. The market is kind of drying up for health care because it does take special people to come and work in a health care industry."

Jane Pauley Community Health Centers focuses on primary care in underserved areas. They are seeing record numbers of patient visits this year. But about 10 percent of their jobs are unfilled, with 25 open positions at 17 centers in central Indiana. 

"We offer great benefits at our organization, not only with the health care and whatnot, but also with 401K matches,” said Hackett. “We also have to make sure we're competitive as far as for paying our employees."

The Indiana unemployment rate for July, the latest figure available, was 4.2 percent, compared to 5.7 percent for the country as a whole. The metropolitan Indianapolis area's unemployment rate was even lower at 4.0 percent.