Job openings hit 20-year nationwide high, while thousands remain on unemployment

Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 6:36 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Chris Jones left the Kentucky Career Center on Cedar Street feeling relieved.

“I feel like everything is on the up and up at this point,” Jones said.

Jones has been out of work since May 2020 navigating Kentucky’s unemployment nightmare. On Tuesday, he met with an unemployment representative to clear up his case.

He told WAVE 3 News he’s been looking for work, but has some post pandemic pre-requisites.

“I prefer at-home jobs, but at the end of the day, I don’t want to feel like I’ve got to wear (a mask) as a hazard to work, you know,” Jones said. “That’s what would make me feel comfortable.”

On the other side of the counter, River Road BBQ owners Krissy Davis and Kylie Swift are having the reverse issue.

They’ve been looking to hire employees to help in the kitchen of their restaurant, especially during the lunchtime rush.

“We do have fewer employees than we’ve had in the past this time of year,” Davis said. “But, we have a really, really strong crew. So our customer service really has not been lacking at all. It would be nice to have a few more employees though.”

The workplace dichotomy is being felt across the country.

According to the US Labor Department, job openings rose nearly 8 percent to 8.1 million in March, the most on records dating back to December 2000. Yet, overall hiring that month rose less than 4 percent to 6 million.

The hiring number is a gross figure, while the government’s jobs report, which said 770,000 jobs were added in March, uses a net total.

The unemployment rate sits at 6.1 percent, higher than expected. So, what gives?

“You know, the world has changed and when the world changes, we all have to adapt,” Against the Grain co-owner Sam Cruz said.

The current economic landscape is something Cruz thinks about often, especially as he prepares to re-open Against the Grain’s flagship location on Main Street. He told WAVE 3 News restaurant and bars owners are having to balance COVID-19 adaptations with hiring enough staff to stay in business.

“When people feel uncomfortable, it’s our job to help,” Cruz said. “So I do have some employees that currently desire to work from home and we have that option available for them. So we’ll support it as long as we can. When it’s time to make a change, I think we all have to accept that it’s time to make a change.”

Jones said he understands why business owners may want employees to return to the office, but it’s just not something he’s prepared to do yet.

“We all need the money, but we don’t want to put ourselves in a position of injuring others just because,” Jones said.

Louisville tourism’s list of hospitality job openings can be found here.

To see more job listings in Kentucky and Indiana, click here.

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